Interop 2011: Loud, cloud and crowds

LAS VEGAS – The 25th annual Interop networking conference isn’t the grand event it used to be.

In part that’s because there are fewer vendors than there were five years ago, in part it’s because manufacturers no longer hold product announcements for the show and in part it’s the lingering effect of the recession.

Still, this year’s edition, which started Tuesday, tried hard to carry on the old tradition.

Like all exhibitions, the volume from the booths in the trade show was sometimes overwhelming as amplified demonstrators tried to make themselves be heard.

The catchwords were cloud, fabric and virtualization.

Still, Steve Brown, product marketing manager at Network Instruments, which makes network monitoring solutions, did notice that more people this year came to his booth talking about project they’re working on. Last year, he said, many would have asked what the company does and then moved on.

Maybe that’s a sign the North American economy is strengthening.

“I dont’ know if there’s less people here [than last year] or more,” said Andre Kindness, enterprise networking analyst at Forrester Research, “but there’s a lot more buzz and energy. It seems like its the transformation that’s going within networking — there’s a lot of new protocols and virtualization is really changing [networking]. All of the vendors have come out with new products to answer to that, so there’s a lot of energy between the vendors.”

What he found most notable on the first day were the crowds around a demonstration of OpenFlow, an open technology for software defined networking.

The standard has yet to be finalized, but its backed by many networking companies who see it as a way of extracting intelligence from networks, possibly with servers and applications making decisions about an organization’s network.

Kindness isn’t sure that’s where networking is going, but what he likes is that OpenFlow and the work of the Open Networking Foundation could be a catalyst for new ideas and new products.

“It’s disruptive point in the evolution of networking,” he declared, “in that it’s going to force networking as a whole to be much more integrated and co-ordinated with other parts of the [IT] infrastructure.”

Elsewhere, manufacturers were making product announcements. Here’s a few that caught my eye:

–Extreme Networks Inc. revealed its Open Fabric architecture and data center solutions, data center switches that allow organizations to build highly scalable, mobile and virtualized networks.

The first are the BlackDiamond X8, a 20 Terabit modular chassis that can have up to 768 non-blocking 10GbE ports or 192 non-blocking 40GbE ports in 1/3rd rack, and the Summit X670 top-of-rack switches with up to 64 ports of wire speed 10 GbE or 48 ports of wire speed 10GbE with four ports of 40GbE uplinks.

“Open Fabric is an architecture for both enterprise and cloud data centres, that is focused on openness and interoperability,” David Ginsberg, senior vice-president of strategic marketing, said in an interview.

The low latency architecture also supports the OpenFlow standard, he said.

–Cisco Systems Inc. was talking about the new Cisco Flex 7500 Series Cloud Controller for branches, which the company says enables central management and control of up to 500 locations, 2,000 access points and over 20,000 clients from one data centre. IT managers can also remotely configure wireless policies, management and security settings. Available now, pricing starts at US$47,995.

The company also announced the ISR Cloud Web Security software solution for deploying cloud-based Web security and usage policies. Available with any ISR G2 branch router security bundle starting in July, it allows Cisco ScanSafe to extend Web protection and malware detection from the data centre to branch offices.

ISR Web Security starts at US$2,495, plus the price of a ScanSafe subscription.

By the way, the Cius tablet is coming at the end of the month. Wi-Fi version only, so far.

–Avaya Inc. was touting its just-announced VSP 7000 top of rack switch for organization needing 10 GbE server and storage connectivity.

“What makes it unique is it has an extremely fast interconnect capability that goes well beyond the 100 Gig speed the market has been hoping for” through back-end media adapters, said Jean Turgeon, Avaya’s global general manager for data solutions.

The modules allow customers to start by deploying 10 GbE on the switch, then change to 40 or 100 GbE when needed. “It future-proofs top-of-rack solutions,” he said. The VSP 7000 will be availabile in August.

Also being demonstrated at the booth was the new Virtualization Provisioning Services (VPS) plug-in to Avaya’s Configuration and Orchestration Manager. VPS integrates with VMware’s Vcentre to configure Avaya switches when when virtual machines are moved. It also simplifies provisioning of virtual services.

VPS will allow administrators to let storage or compute teams make specified changes to the network without having to seek authorization.

—ShoreTel Inc. said its ShoreTel 12 unified communications suite will be released before the end of June boasting the ability to scale up to 20,000 voice users from a single image, twice the previous version.

The company has been known for aiming at small and medium-sized organiztions, but Laurent Dinard, a senior product manager said in an interview that “we’re going upmarket.”

One-third of ShoreTel’s new customers have more than 500 users, he explained.

While the new version will be able to handle more voice users, it will still be limited for the time being to serving up to 5,000 for Web, audio and instant messaging collaboration. This despite the fact that v.12 now has integrated these collaboration applications into the platform. Until now collaboration has been an add-on that was managed and configured separately.

Now, ShoreTel says, enabling collaboration can be done in less than 10 minutes, and new users can be added with just one click.

Dinard said support for more collaboration users will be increased in upcoming releases.

ShoreTel 12 integrates with Microsoft Office 2010, but doesn’t yet integrate with that company’s Lync unified communications suite.

In an interview earlier this month in Toronto, ShoreTel executives said that’s being worked on but wouldn’t say when it will come.

ShoreTel is trying to increase its visibility in Canada. A year ago the company had only one full-time staffer here. Now country manager George Pappas has four people with him and is looking to hire more. He’s also looking for office space to do product demonstrations, for a Canadian distributor and to expand its network of 40 system integrators.

–LG Ericsson USA, a joint venture created last year beween LG-Ericsson and Accton Technology, continues to roll out 1U switches. The latest is the ES5048XG, a 48-port 10Gb managed data centre switch.

It offers congestion notification through 802.1Qau and Per Priority Flow Control to support Fibre Channel over Ethernet for LAN, SAN and IPC networks.

Also new are two stackable one gigabit managed aggregator switches, the 24-port ES4526G, and the 48-port 4550G. Each has two 10G uplink slots. Up to eight can be stacked in a unit.

Director of product marketing Iain Kenney acknowledged in an interview the company isn’t well-known in Canada. “We’re going to change that,” he promised.

–Blue Coat Systems Inc. unveiled the hardware-based model 900 and 9000 MACH5 WAN opimization appliances, which provide gigabit throughput. For private cloud data centres, there’s a high capacity version of its software only appliance called the Cloud MACH5 Virtual Appliance, that can top out at 45 Mpbs depending on the power of the underlying server.

In addition, the company has created the CloudCaching Engine for these appliances, which uses asymetric optimization to accelerate public cloud-based applications such as software-as-service apps, including those using video, without putting an appliance in the hosting data centre.

The engine comes with the new version 6.2 of Blue Coat’s operating system.


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