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Force10's C-Craze

5:40 PM -- complink 2098|Force10 Networks Inc.} is getting some mileage out of the C-Series switches in introduced last year.

First, the company announced last week that the C-Series has found its way into an IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) high-performance computing box.

We'd include a picture, but IBM's iDataPlex is just a tall black box, the kind they'd use as background in the "science" scene of a spy movie. Inside the box are two racks stacked closer together than the usual six to 12 inches, with appropriate refrigeration. The black-box outer shell keeps the coldness in, as George Carlin would put it, and makes the whole assembly easy to wheel into a data center.

Now that IBM has qualified the Force10 C-series -- a process that's as complex as telco qualification, to hear Force10 tell it -- it's happy to include two of the C-150 Ethernet boxes inside the iDataPlex. "Imagine a couple of pizza boxes in there," says Steve Garrison, senior director of marketing.

Force10 doesn't disclose revenue specifics, being a persistently private company, but it's said before that IBM could account for 10 percent of revenues in any given year. It's phrased that way because the level of sales to IBM varies a lot from quarter to quarter.

Separately, Force10 is adding the new FlexMedia line card to the C-Series. (See Force10 Gets Flexible.)

It puts uplink ports on the same card as the 44 Ethernet ports being aggregated (that's eight Gigabit Ethernet ports and 36 ports capable of 10-Mbit/s, 100-Mbit/s, or Gigabit Ethernet). That makes the card's front panel analogous to a standalone pizza box.

Force10 had found that customers were using the 10-Gbit/s ports on the control module -- more formally, the router processor module (RPM) -- as their uplink ports. Apparently, that can affect performance, so the new module is meant to discourage this strategy.

"We felt, as a best practice for the future, it was not a good idea," Garrison says. "This was a change needed for high availability networks."

High availability and resiliency are part of the pitch Force10 brought when it introduced the C300 in 2007. (See Force10 Intros C300.)

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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