Force10 Networks launches Open Cloud Networking

By Dave Bailey
26 Apr 2011 View Comments
Force10 Networks Z9000 product shot

Force10 Networks launched its Open Cloud Networking (OCN) framework today, a strategic blueprint for how it sees cloud and conventional datacentre construction proceeding in the coming years.

As a first step, the vendor released the first hardware and software tied into OCN aimed at offering global multinationals and ISPs networking kit designed to boost network speeds, and automation and scalability in their datacentres.

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Force10 product marketing senior director Jeff Baher characterised OCN as "at least one part philosophy and two parts product".

Commenting on the cloud strategy, Rob Bamforth, Quocirca principal analyst for communication, collaboration and convergence, said, “Manageability will be key because of the need for flexibility. Firms need to be able to scale up and down as needs change. For example, when firms need to deploy mobile technology and due to the consumerisation of the end points.

“There are a lot of people talking as if cloud is all or nothing – i.e. on premise or on remote public cloud datacentres. The reality will be much more of a hybrid with private clouds, public clouds and on-premise boxes,” he said, adding that managing this flexibility in a dynamic way without escalating costs or the number of chairs in the IT department will become ever more important.

The new hardware being unveiled by Force10 Networks today gives firms a choice of datacentre architectures for their core switching needs.

The hardware is branded as ZettaScale by Force10 Networks, in sync with its earlier TeraScale and ExaScale architectures.

Companies can choose between centralised and distributed core datacentre architectures.

For firms considering a distributed core architecture, Force10 Networks is offering the Z9000 switch, which has 32 line-rate 40Gbit/s ports in a two rack unit (RU) form factor [see picture].

Force10 Networks Z9000 product shot










The centralised core switch announced by Force10 Networks is the 19RU form factor Z9512, which will be available this autumn. The Z9512 will have a switching capacity of 9.6Tbit/s, 48 x 10Gbit/s bi-directionally, although users will be able to choose 40Gbit/s or 100Gbit/s ports if they want.

Lastly, Force10 Networks is unveiling the top-of-rack S7000 Open Cloud Switch, which it says converges networking, applications and storage in a 2RU form factor.

The S7000 has 36 x 10GbE ports, 12 x 10GbE/1/2/4/8G Fibre Channel ports, and 4 x 40GbE ports.  It supports Fibre-channel-over-Ethernet (FCoE) connectivity.

The S7000 can also run third-party applications directly on the switch as well, since it has four expansion bays for blade hardware [see picture].

Force10 Networks S7000 product shot









A key to making the OCN work favourably for enterprises and ISPs is the software Force10 Networks is releasing to work with the hardware.

There are two focuses in this respect: the firmware released with the switches, Force10 Networks Operating System (FTOS); and an upgrade to Force10's Open Automation system to version 2.0 from version 1.0.

A new feature in Open Automation 2.0 is the opening of ScriptStore. This is a combined online resource and forum where firms can buy scripts written in Perl or Python programming languages, and share knowledge to let them automate key network functions with the Force10 Network hardware.

For example, firms could automate management of network devices, and automate network alerts. 

Another key feature in Force10 Networks Open Automation 2.0 is support for the IEEE Virtual Ethernet Port Aggregator (VEPA) standard comprising IEEE 802.1Qbg (edge virtual bridging [EVB]) and 802.1Qbh (bridge port extension).

VEPA will allow server hypervisors – the command centre that manages virtual machines (VMs) on datacentre servers – to offload all switching activity associated with these VMs, onto actual physical hardware.

The upshot is that all the processing associated with dealing with virtual network connections is run on switches, freeing up servers for what they do best – running applications.

VEPA is due to be ratified later this year.

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