Extreme Intros 10-GigE Platform

LAS VEGAS -- Networld+Interop -- Not to be outdone by its archrival Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY), which announced its next-generation switching platform here on Monday, Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) announced its new 10-Gbit/s Ethernet solution on Tuesday (see Extreme Upgrades Architecture).

The new product, codenamed "Mariner," is the first in a series of products that Extreme will be announcing using the company’s newly designed chipset, called the Fourth-Generation Networking Silicon System, or 4GNSS for short. This chipset, which uses a technology called T-Flex, is completely programmable, allowing customers greater flexibility in deploying new services, says Duncan Potter, Extreme’s vice president of marketing. It also offers customers greater investment protection, since they won’t be required to continue to do forklift upgrades to add new features, he adds.

The timing of this announcement is interesting because it closely follows announcements by three key competitors -- Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Foundry and Riverstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RSTN) -- all of which have announced new 10-Gbit/s products in the last month (see Cisco Takes On 10 GigE Competition, Foundry Unwraps 'Mucho Grande', and Riverstone Fuels 10GigE Price War).

Some have wondered if Extreme’s announcement, which some had expected around the Supercomm 2003 tradeshow in June, was pushed up in response to competitive pressure.

“They’ve announced vaporware,” says Alex Henderson, an analyst with Salomon Smith Barney. “They told everyone that the product wouldn’t be out until the end of the year. It looks like they are just giving people a roadmap with this announcement.”

Not only had the company done no press tour for the launch of this product, but it also didn’t provide any data sheets or marketing material of the product at its booth yesterday.

Extreme’s Potter denies that announcements from its competitors prompted it to change its marketing plans. And he emphasized that the product was indeed real. In fact, a working prototype is in the company's booth here at the N+I tradeshow passing traffic as part of the event's backbone.

“We wanted to explain a coherent architecture for our fourth-generation ASICs,” he says. “And we needed to announce a proof-point of this technology, which is the Mariner.”

Still, some believe the company rushed Mariner out into the public a bit early. The company itself says the product won’t be available until at least the third quarter of this year.

Potter claims that the product is already in customer trials. But exactly how far along it is in the trial process is unknown. Jack Costanza, technology manager for the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a self-professed Extreme advocate, said in an interview at the beginning of April that he had chosen a solution from Riverstone -- in part because he was told by Extreme that its new product wouldn’t even go into beta sites until September or October of this year.

“That was just too late for us,” Costanza said at the time. “And I didn’t want to go with the existing 10-Gbit/s solution they offered.”

Potter says the company is taking its time getting Mariner out the door. And it appears that it won't be too far behind its competitors. Cisco and Foundry say they will also begin revenue shipments toward the third quarter of this year.

"We aren't going to rush this product out before its ready," he says. "We won't let our customers be the testbed for this product."

But there are also fundamental issues with Extreme’s approach in 10-Gbit/s Ethernet. Like Foundry, Extreme chose to develop a completely new platform from scratch, instead of adding onto its existing product. As a result, customers deploying the new gear will have to replace their existing switch with the new one. Also, the new 1-Gbit/s Ethernet and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet line cards are not backward-compatible with any other Extreme products. The same is true of Foundry’s new solution.

There are other problems as well. Extreme says it will be offering a six-port 10-Gbit/s line card -- the densest 10-Gbit/s line card announced by a vendor so far. Foundry and Cisco have each announced support for four-port line cards.

While Mariner may support six ports of 10 Gbit/s per card, each slot on the chassis only supports 20 Gbit/s worth of switching capacity, admits Potter. It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that customers get less than 4 Gbit/s worth of switching capacity on each port when all ports are used. And in reality, customers can only run two ports of 10 Gbit/s at full line rate.

Potter claims that the new ASICs and the design of the product allow a new switch fabric to be slotted into the switch when more bandwidth is needed. With these additions, he says the company will be able to support 60 Gbit/s to 80 Gbit/s per slot. He also says the six slot-line card allows customers the flexibility to oversubscribe the box.

What’s more, Mariner won’t even be supporting all of the new 4GNSS features in its first release. While yesterday’s announcement highlighted some key ASIC support features such as IPv6 and MPLS, the first version of Mariner won’t be supporting MPLS.

The company hasn’t officially published pricing on Mariner, but it did mention some ranges: Its press release says that an entry-level chassis is priced just under $50,000, and per-port pricing is below $8,000, excluding the optics.

At least one Ethernet switching vendor says he doesn’t see what the big rush to announce 10-Gbit/s products is all about. Mark Pearce, product marketing manager for Enterasys Networks Inc. (NYSE: ETS), says that he has seen very little demand for 10-Gbit/s from his customers.

“Ten GigE is not something that most enterprise customers are ready for yet,” he says. “I’m sure at some stage we will have to adjust our pricing and product features. But we’ll do it when we see market demand, and not because competitors are making announcements.”

Analysts tend to agree with this assessment, “Ten Gig is a niche market,” says Salomon Smith Barney’s Henderson. “I don’t think it will move the dial materially this year or even next year.”

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 12:08:26 AM
re: Extreme Intros 10-GigE Platform As an ex now retired sales guy way to tell it like it is.

If our country had real broadband, i.e. a cabling infrastructure where customers defined the network and could connect any technology the market offerred, do you think you would remain a retired sales guy?

If not, what are we to do to get you guys off the early retirement?
wilecoyote 12/5/2012 | 12:08:26 AM
re: Extreme Intros 10-GigE Platform Yeah these posts are funny. Be interested to know why three posts in a row. What's got your goat, haggot man?

Disagree that our markets are the laughing stock of the world. I'd say they are the envy of the world. Can you say "greater fool theory?"

Are the Europeans really laughing at all the wealth we create every year and how we consider 2% growth a serious downturn? I wouldn't say the US is the laughing stock anywhere. I'd say we are kicking everyone's "arse" right now. Name me one technology market leader based outside of the US other than Sony. And name me one country who could remove a government of a major country in less than a month.

Agree, Cisco sucks. (I just can't resist--it feels so good).

They manage their earnings and have for 8 years straight. Freaking criminal and someone at the SEC must be gettin' greased cause they should be sniffing around big time.
Iipoed 12/5/2012 | 12:08:26 AM
re: Extreme Intros 10-GigE Platform Opticalphaggot-GREAT POSTS. You certainly have a clear view of reality. I only wish these were my posts. As an ex now retired sales guy way to tell it like it is. Now get ready for the Crisco bigots to try and burn you at the stake.
By the way you must be in sales as well?
opticalphaggot 12/5/2012 | 12:08:26 AM
re: Extreme Intros 10-GigE Platform Crisco beats by a penny next week and will have the books cookin over an open fire. Lucent will be so jealous!
opticalphaggot 12/5/2012 | 12:08:27 AM
re: Extreme Intros 10-GigE Platform are the laughing stock of the world. Robber barrons make off with all the loot while idiot shareholders lose their arse holding the big boy's bags while bickering amongst themselves on message boards fighting over penny stocks and whether they will ever get over $10 again. That's the reality. Who will step up to the plate to right things? Where are the leaders of the industry that have not been corrupted? Don't look at me. I'm both an idiot and my wife corrupted me a long time ago, so I don't count.
opticalphaggot 12/5/2012 | 12:08:27 AM
re: Extreme Intros 10-GigE Platform I thought Cisco was synonomous with the terms "crippled, captive, and semi-operational." But then again don't tell that to all the middle managers buying Cisco's marketing propaganda. I'm no fanboy of Cisco and I'm definitely not a fanboy of the legions of spineless middle managing idiots who buy Cisco's underperforming garbage and marketing. At least it will still be operational even after they are canned for network cost cuts. "It's definitely not the equipment, I picked it out myself!" Sure you did Mr. Picket Fencer. By the way, we had to cut you because it costs more to pay you then it does for our semiworking equipment. But I hear Lucent's cafeteria is hiring again.
metroshark 12/5/2012 | 12:08:28 AM
re: Extreme Intros 10-GigE Platform So far, Force-10, Riverstone and Foundry have been able to show "real" wire-speed 10G switches. Cisco(the new Catalyst 6500), and now Extreme are talking about products they might be able to ship before the end of this year. Of course, Juniper and Cisco had wire-speed 10G interfaces on their core routers for some time, but these are typically prohibitively expensive for basis 10GigE switching applications.

Force-10 and Riverstone have also published independent test results which seem to indicate that they have boxes with really good performance. Foundry will probably follow soon. Cisco usually does not bother with this stuff since they have proven again and again that they can sell performance crippled products to their captive customer base.
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