SDN Drives New Dell Announcements

Active Fabric Controller enables virtualized network orchestration.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Mar 26, 2014
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Dell is expanding its hardware and software networking technologies to meet the evolving demand for Software Defined Networking (SDN).

The new hardware from Dell is the Z9500 Fabric switch, a 3 Rack-Unit (RU) box that can support up todell networking 528 ports of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) or 132 ports of 40 GbE.

Arpit Joshipura, VP of Product Management and Marketing at Dell Networking, explained to Enterprise Networking Planet that the Z9500 is an evolution of the Z9000 switch first announced in 2011.

The Z9500 runs Dell's FTOS operating system, which came to Dell by way of the acquisition of Force10 in 2011. Dell also supports Linux on other switches within its portfolio, but Joshipura noted that the Z9500 sits deep within the network, where FTOS is more suited for deployment.

The Z9500 is deployed in what is known as a Leaf and Spine deployment approach.

Joshipura explained that Leaf and Spine architecture is a networking concept where a number of networking devices are connected in a non-blocking way. In a typical network deployment, there are top-of-rack switches, an aggregation chassis and then a core network chassis.

Modern workloads, however, typically have a lot of server-to-server traffic, generally referred to as East-West traffic.

"What Leaf and Spine allows you to do is connect any server to any other server with the minimum number of network hops," Joshipura said. "So that is instead of the need to go multiple layers up and then multiple layers down, connecting one server to another with many network hops."

Going a step further, Dell is also announcing a new Active Fabric Controller that overlays on top of the physical Leaf and Spine network architecture to enable an SDN model for networking.

"Active Fabric Controller automates the entire lifecycle of the physical network infrastructure, customizing policies, providing workload visibility and adapt the fabric for automated discovery and quality of service," Joshipura said.

The Active Fabric Controller also has a plug-in for the OpenStack Neutron networking project, enabling a network administrator to rapidly deploy a cloud networking service.

"So for an IT admin, now you have a software plug-in that allows for automation using OpenStack," Joshipura said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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