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Force10's Fabric Is a Quilt

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto

Force10 Networks Inc. is making its data center architecture statement by announcing Open Cloud Networking, which is kind of the opposite of a package. Force10's message is that its switches can be part of a heterogeneous data center fabric based on open standards.

The company is also showing it's keeping up with the new wave of switches, announcing on Monday the Z-series for the data-center core. The Z9000 is a smaller alternative to most core boxes, being two rack units tall with an advertised switching capacity of 2.5 Tbit/s. Force10 is also introducing a chassis-sized switch, the Z9512, and a new version of its S7000 top-of-rack switch.

The idea is that the smaller Z9000s can be applied as a distributed core, augmenting, say, a fabric already built with Nexus boxes from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). (Force10's marketing pitch picks on Cisco specifically.)

There's also an app store involved, although it's not as much fun as Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s. Force10 intends to launch DevExchange, an open forum for exchanging scripts for Force10 gear, in the fall.

Why this matters
This is Force10's way of squeezing into the data-center debate. Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Cisco and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) are offering architectures that span the whole data center, and Force10 lacks the firepower to pitch something similar.

What it can do, though, is offer switches that can be nestled into a network that's already using Cisco's Nexus, providing an alternative means of expansion that Force10 says is cheaper and uses less power and space.

"The answer isn't to throw in more big boxes that have a potential to flatten things out," says Jeff Baher, Force10's senior director of product marketing. "That becomes a very large system very quickly."

For more
Our coverage of the evolving data center:

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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Pete Baldwin
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:06:35 PM
re: Force10's Fabric Is a Quilt

I'll bet we're going to hear this message a LOT more from a lot more companies. The first one I talked to after filing this story was one, actually.

Interop is coming up, and there's a solid handful of worthy switch competitors out there now.  The all-in-one QFabric/Unified Fabric/BrocadeOne fabric is going to be under assault for the next month or so.

I'm guessing that in the long run, the heterogeneous model will win out most of the time, but the very largest data centers will lean toward a one-vendor plan. (QFabric, especially, is intended only for the biggest data centers IIRC).

That's the LONG run. A lot of people are already using Cisco's unified fabric. But I'd bet they'll welcome the possibility of bringing other vendors in.

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