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Optical/IP

First 10-Gig Ethernet Switch Arrives

It’s official; a new generation of Ethernet switching has emerged.

Force10 Networks Inc. will officially announce its new E-Series of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switches tomorrow, Tuesday. The company, which has been demonstrating its product publicly for the past several months will finally reveal details of the E1200 and the E600 Ethernet switches this week (see Force10 Shows Off 10-GigE Switch). It will also be announcing four customers that are already deploying the gear.

The E-Series has been selected by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). Both of these projects are part of the National Science Foundation’s TeraGrid project. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories and The London Internet Exchange (LINX) have also selected the product.

Force10’s emergence clearly marks another milestone in Ethernet evolution. But a lot of the hype that surrounded the 1997 rollout of 1-Gbit/s Ethernet switches by a dozen or so startups is lacking this time around. There's no huge acquisitions, no monster IPOs and there's only one startup so far, Force10.

The incumbent switch manufacturers, of course, haven't been sitting still. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) have already introduced 10-Gbit/s modules for their existing product lines. Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) and Riverstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RSTN) also say they're working on 10-Gbit/s support in their switching gear.

All of these companies, however, have based their solutions on existing architectures, which puts them at a disadvantage compared to Force10. “It’s not easy to add new features to an existing product,” says Rick Thompson, a principal analyst with PointEast Research LLC, who formerly was a product manager for Packet Engines, a Gigabit Ethernet startup that was sold to Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA). “You can never do it as well as a startup can.” That might explain why vendors have been reluctant to submit 10-Gig products for performance tests (see 10-GigE Vendors Get Cold Feet).

An open playing field isn’t the only thing Force10 has going for it. The company claims to have the densest 10-Gbit/s and 1-Gbit/s Ethernet solution on the market with the best performance.

The E1200 chassis sits in half a seven-foot rack and supports 28 10-Gbit/s ports and 336 1-Gbit/s Ethernet ports per chassis. Cisco’s largest box, the Catalyst 6513 also sits in half a rack and supports 12 10-Gbit/s and 194 1-Gbit/s Ethernet ports. Foundry’s BigIron 15000 supports 14 10-Gbit/s and 232 1-Gbit/s.

While Foundry readily admits that BigIron only forwards at 8 Gbit/s, the Force10 switches consistently forward at rates of between 9 Gbit/s and 9.5 Gbit/s says Mike Bennett, of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, one of Force10’s first customers. The box continues to perform at line rate even with quality of service and content filtering features turned on.

Another key factor for the startup is that unlike the hundreds of telecom startups trying to survive the market downturn, Force10 has a diversified addressable market. It can sell its switches into a variety of markets without changing its feature set.

“People keep asking us if we are a switch or router vendor? Are we focused on the enterprise or service providers?” says Steve Mullaney, vice president of marketing for Force10. “And we say yes to all of those things. We define ourselves as a scaleable high-performance Ethernet company. And we can fit into a variety of applications for a variety of customers.”

The product has already gotten a lot of traction in the high-end research community where it is currently being used to aggregate supercomputing applications. The switches also can be targeted at large educational institutions and Fortune 100 enterprises to aggregate and switch traffic throughout their large campuses, or it can connect servers in a storage area network. Service providers could use the switches to aggregate Gigabit Ethernet traffic in a metro area network. Internet Service providers and Web hosting centers could use the switches for high capacity data center applications. And Internet exchange points, which were early adopters of 1-Gbit/s Ethernet technology, could also use Force10 gear for aggregation.

Even though Force10 has a lot of things going for it, there are still factors outside the company’s control that could impede its success. Force10 may be able to focus on non-telecom customers for a while, but the economic slowdown has also hurt enterprise customers and research facilities where it will initially sell its products. Even these customers must watch their budgets.

The exit strategy for this company is also uncertain as well. While Granite Systems was snagged by Cisco in 1996 for $220 million and Foundry’s stock jumped 525 percent on its first day of trading in 1999, the economic reality of today makes either of these scenarios unlikely for Force10 anytime in the near future.

What’s more, the market place in general is very different today than it was back in 1997 when 1-Gbit/s startups were emerging. The enterprise is still expected to be the first market for this technology, but the uptake is expected to be at a much slower rate than it was for 1Gbit/s.

“This is a different time,” says Dave Passmore, an analyst with the Burton Group. “The ramp in uptake for 10 Gbit/s is not likely to be as steep as it was for 1 Gbit/s. Part of this has to do with market conditions and part has to do with technology adoption.”

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com
eskimo 12/4/2012 | 9:50:09 PM
re: First 10-Gig Ethernet Switch Arrives With the current demand for 10G in the market, it should have been a pretty stellar performance from Force10 to have kept its nose above water. smart move to have held off the company launch until the product was out there and with a couple of customers to show. However it should be real interesting to see if they can dislodge the incumbents-Cisco, Foundry and extreme. With the current economy, there is quite a drag to dislodge any of the established biggies... If they do make it, it should trigger more investments into the sagging metro market... Lets see it make it to the end of the year. Hopefully SOME startup would bring in the moolah and create hope in a pathetic economic situation...
sigint 12/4/2012 | 9:50:03 PM
re: First 10-Gig Ethernet Switch Arrives The switches also can be targeted at large educational institutions and Fortune 100 enterprises to aggregate and switch traffic throughout their large campuses, or it can connect servers in a storage area network.
__________________________________________________

Enterprise market is where all the action is likely to be. At least for the present. Hopefully, large scale deployments of 10G ethernet would drop prices down to commodity levels and we could then see some investment from Telcos on such equipment.

The cost fiber installation might put a few enterprises off. The industry has to rise to the occassion to dispel such fears. We seem to have started off on the wrong foot (see all the brouhaha about transceiver form factor).

In the meantime, some component vendors are already suggesting running XAUI over copper to about 30m.
sigint 12/4/2012 | 9:50:03 PM
re: First 10-Gig Ethernet Switch Arrives Hey! You sound like a telecom VC! Nice try at recreating the bubble.
light-headed 12/4/2012 | 9:49:58 PM
re: First 10-Gig Ethernet Switch Arrives GǣPeople keep asking us if we are a switch or router vendor? Are we focused on the enterprise or service providers?Gǥ says Steve Mullaney, vice president of marketing for Force10. GǣAnd we say yes to all of those things. We define ourselves as a scalable high-performance Ethernet company. And we can fit into a variety of applications for a variety of customers.Gǥ
-------------------------------------------

translation:

"We will go wherever the money is."


Too bad you cannot design a device to do be a great router and an enterprise switch. Bad message to customers. They better focus on the market where the switch performs best... probably enterprise or L2 data center.
desi 12/4/2012 | 9:49:57 PM
re: First 10-Gig Ethernet Switch Arrives Are Force10 really the first to provide a "10G Ethernet" switch?

I guess it depends on how you define "10G Ethernet switch".

I believe Lantern has been providing Ethernet services over 10G from early this year... The transport they use is RPR, but you still get Ethernet services (plus other benefits).

Just my 2 cents.
wilecoyote 12/4/2012 | 9:49:57 PM
re: First 10-Gig Ethernet Switch Arrives Lantern is not a L2 or L3 switch. It's more like a multi-service access device. Like Luminous' Packetwave, but running at 10 gig. Last I checked they hadn't delivered the thing successfully. It may be configured to aggregate Gig ethernet links in OC48 access rings. Again, not a L3 switch.
cerbera 12/4/2012 | 9:49:56 PM
re: First 10-Gig Ethernet Switch Arrives I don't see that Force 10 are going to make much of an impact into the enterprise market...
1) Very limited ( for now ) demand for 10GigE in enterprise...channelised GigE is here now, it works and its a lot cheaper
2) Extreme, Cisco, Foundry all have 10GigE today - granted at 80% max throughput - but they havn't sold many
3) By the time the demand is there, there will be a slew of switches with wirespeed 10GigE from major vendors...the rumoured new Extreme box, Alcatel 8800( already announced ), and the upgrade to the 6500....who's going to buy Force 10 kit then?

And Force10 don't have a viable worldwide channel to market....the others do.

Hmmm...



Perhaps they better concentrate
thats_it 12/4/2012 | 9:49:50 PM
re: First 10-Gig Ethernet Switch Arrives The real question is whether there will be any engineers left to develop the product and sustain it by the time the CEO is finished "shooting" everyone (read: firing everyone). It's darn near a miracle that I have been standing here as long as I have. Force10 may have a good product, but I guarantee that the company's top talent will bail when given the chance. There could not be a more brutal company to work for in this industry. In my opinion, I would not recommend anyone join Force10 - not unless you want to live every work day wondering if you are the next to get walked out. It's a joke.
rmhlee 12/4/2012 | 9:49:47 PM
re: First 10-Gig Ethernet Switch Arrives No bias in this post I assume...
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