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Optical/IP

Force10 Goes Terabit

Force10 Networks Inc. today introduced a new high-end Ethernet switch/router that it says doubles any existing port capacity and supports total throughput as high as 1.6 terabits. The new Force10 TeraScale E-Series switches are based on a new ASIC designed by Force10 and built by IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) using its Cu-11 technology, a 130-nanometer chip design for high-end applications. Force10 says the new product supports 672 line-rate gigabit Ethernet ports and 56 line-rate 10-gigabit Ethernet ports in one chassis. The Milpitas, Calif.-based switch maker claims this is twice the port density of its nearest competitor.

Andrew Feldman, Force10's vice president of marketing, calls it "the largest routing device ever made."

Yes, that's a tall claim -- but so far, after checking with several competitors, there's nobody refuting it. With the product, Force10 says it's going after a new market of high-end data centers where better port density is needed to save space and power.

Is the market out there? It may take some time to develop. Analysts say such a high density would provide a lot more power than a typical corporate customer would need. For now, the TeraScale E-Series could appeal to a select group of data centers with more demanding applications, such as the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), the research unit of the University of California at San Diego. The center deployed the TeraScale E-Series about six weeks ago.

“It replaces the previous generation of Force10 we were using. It lets us coalesce four switches into one,” says Nathaniel Mendoza, the center’s network engineer.

The backplane of the TeraScale E-Series has a capacity of 5 terabits per second. This allows network operators to add capacity to their networks when ASIC technology is upgraded, without changing the chassis or the backplane.

On the competive front, the product appears to give Force10 bragging rights in the Ethernet switching department.

Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) says its highest performance switch is the BigIron MG8. This switch supports up to 480 Gigabit Ethernet ports in a single system and 1,440 Gigabit Ethernet ports in a standard 7-foot rack. The switch uses the new 60-port GigE (over copper) modules, which will be shipping at the end of the month, says a Foundry spokeswoman .

The BigIron MG8 supports configurations up to 32 wire-speed 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports in a single system.

Foundry, however, downplays the need for higher speeds and feeds, saying most service providers aren't looking for such high capacity.

“When you start putting too many ports in a chassis then customers get wary of that, wary of putting everything into one basket,” says Bill Ryan, one of Foundry's product managers. “High density is for a limited market. We don’t see it so much in the service provider space. Many are hesitant to go up that high.”

Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) another competitor, says its BlackDiamond 10808 switch supports up to 48 10-gigabit ports and 480 gigabit ports. Its BlackDiamond 6816 switch supports 16 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Analysts say Force10's next step may be scaling up its bulk and resources, as it's still private and smaller than most of its competitors.

“The issue for Force10 is service and support,” says David Willis, a senior analyst at Meta Group Inc. “They have had success in high-end computing, but they are not that well known. The first thing they have to do is convince people: Why not Cisco? And then why Force10?

“It’s a specialized device they are offering and would require specialized training, and you would have a limited number of companies which could offer support."

Force10 claims the demand for high-bandwidth applications will drive the need for greater network capacity. It says the next generation of Ethernet technology is 100-Gigabit Ethernet, and it's now got the only switch that is "100 Gig-ready" today.

At least one analyst agrees the new product's numbers will reinforce its position as a cutting-edge Ethernet switch player.

“This will position them as a top contender in the 10-gigabit niche," says International Data Corp analyst Max Flisi. "But the 10-gig market is still small and new, and we’re not forecasting any widespread adoption right now."

— Joanna Sabatini, Reporter, Light Reading

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LightSaavy 12/5/2012 | 1:17:20 AM
re: Force10 Goes Terabit Looks like they are really turning things around over there!
LightSaavy 12/5/2012 | 1:17:19 AM
re: Force10 Goes Terabit Seeing as how the market is staged for huge growth over the next couple years they will be successful if they are able to close a small portion of deals out there. Why else would Juniper want this company so badly. Why believe anything a competitor would say? It's like believing the Kerry Camp saying something about Bush!
change_is_good 12/5/2012 | 1:17:19 AM
re: Force10 Goes Terabit does anyone really see much of a market for this thing?

with all those eggs in one basket i can only see cluster applications at research facilities being the target. in the case of sdsc/teragrid, if a switch burps, the whole cluster is down. but research clusters are not designed for reliability but rather cost per port. downtime is acceptable.

like the foundry guy said, sp's and large enterprises aren't going to throw 612 gbe or 56 10gbe's on a single box if the success of their business is riding on the reliability of their network.
KillDozer 12/5/2012 | 1:17:17 AM
re: Force10 Goes Terabit If the boxes are reliable and stay up, does it matter? It's easier to manage one box then 5 or more. Adding the port density reduces the price per port cost and the cost of entry. This is probably what the customers want. Wouldnt cisco or jnpr do it or try to do it? All the big players are moving to higher densities that is why there are boxes running 48 10 Gig and 320 1 gig.
maximuscomehome 12/5/2012 | 1:17:14 AM
re: Force10 Goes Terabit Check out the pictures of the new switch on their website! That's impressive.

-- massimo
Frank 12/5/2012 | 1:17:14 AM
re: Force10 Goes Terabit "... with all those eggs in one basket i can only see cluster applications at research facilities being the target."

Aside from research clusters, there may be a growing need by other forms of data center and node clusters, such as those that front end enterprise storage complexes. For example, for capacity-intense image archiving purposes.

As someone who has been involved in bank check processing and image archiving for a number of years, I think that a network element of this type, especially with built-in egress capabilities to the WAN, might prove to be very useful, even if OEM'ed by the larger storage players as they've done with other vendors' boxes.

And as you suggested, when used in this fashion for mission critical applications they would be configured as multiple load-shared or redundant boxes, as well. For most large financial institutions and other sectors such precautions would be a no-brainer, no matter how reliable the published MTTF numbers are.

I can also see where such capability might be attractive in colos and NAPs to replace digital cross-connects, and, when adapted with proper interfaces, serve as a traffic cop for high-cap POS and other optical-based flows, as well.

Frank
Iipoed 12/5/2012 | 1:17:01 AM
re: Force10 Goes Terabit Yeah, nice big box. If they don't start making some money instead of taking no margin business that box will make a great boat anchor.
tezol 12/5/2012 | 1:16:57 AM
re: Force10 Goes Terabit Yep; There's enough market for 10G if you're a pragmatic visionary. remember how we moved up on the evolution ladder....10M, 100M, 1G, 10G.......
More is less in a capitalist system......The good thing is the gates have already opened to embrace 10G technology......
opticguy 12/5/2012 | 1:09:22 AM
re: Force10 Goes Terabit Force10 laid off 62 people today at Milpitas location. A couple more rounds anticipated in order to bring the burn rate more managable.

.... They should take Scott's offer then !!!!!!
adaptation 12/5/2012 | 1:09:20 AM
re: Force10 Goes Terabit "I doubt there was such a offer at all."

wrong.
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