Dell copper switch for 10G networks

The best way to get speed into a network is convert the pipes to fibre optic from copper. Unfortunately, conversion doesn’t come cheap, which is why a number of organizations are still using cable.

For those companies, Dell Inc. has released a copper-based version of its 48-port top of rack switch with 10 Gigabit interfaces to servers.

The S4820T has 1/10G twisted-pair copper-based connectivity, which the company says helps lower 10G migration costs, and supports Fibre Channel over Ethernet for consolidating SAN and LAN traffic over DCB-enabled 10G switching fabric.

In addition, it has four 40 GbEthernet links for high-speed fabric connectivity in multi-rack deployments.

“A lot of servers we see in racks today are copper-enabled, so this allows for very smooth transition for customers that are making the move from 1 to 10 Gig infrastructure in their data centres,” said Jeff Baher, head of product and technical marketing for Dell networking products.

The S4820T is in effect the little brother of the fibre-based S4810 introduced in the fall of 2011.

Both switches use the Force 10 Operating System (FTOS), which Dell picked up when it bought Force 10 Networks in 2011.

Dell also announced the first piece of its software defined networking (SDN) strategy is in place: the new version of FTOS is OpenFlow-ready for the Z9000 and S4810 data center switches.

Baher said eventually all Dell switches will be OpenFlow-enabled.

Dell is taking an open attitude towards SDN, Baher said, opening hooks in FTOS to allow network operators to program legacy switches in addition to spreading OpenFlow capability for third-party software controllers. Dell has no plans to get into software controllers, he said.

The Dell strategy will allow SDN – or rather what the company prefers to call software –defined infrastructure — in hybrid mode at the port or virtual interface level, or run by an OpenFlow controller, or at the hypervisor layer using protocols like VXLAN.

Most enterprises are still looking at the potential of SDN for centralized control of switching. University research networks and service providers are among the early adopters, although few have it in production. Baher acknowledged that demand is “still playing out.” But, he added, there are enough switches and controllers on the market now that can create SDN networks for organizations to delve in deeply.

It’s because the cost of shifting to fibre optic is keeping a number of organizations from making the jump to 10 GB networks that Dell has come out with the S4820T, Baher said. Yet the advantages are many: 10G reduces the number of interfaces coming out of a server, he pointed out. And Data Center Bridging (DCB) allows some LAN and SAN traffic to be converged on iSCSI and Fiber Channel networks.
The 1U-sized switch has hot-swapable power supplies and fans. Up to six of them can be stacked. Pricing starts at $36,776 depending on configuration.
(Editor’s note: The pricing has been updated from an earlier version of the story, which used a Dell-supplied number)

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