Dell Extends OpenFlow SDN Support

Dell's Force10 Operating System embraces SDN

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Feb 11, 2013
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Dell is expanding its Software Defined Networking (SDN) efforts with additional OpenFlow support and a new top of rack switch.

Dell is now including OpenFlow support in the Force10 Operating System (FTOS) 9.1 release. FTOS is the underlying operating system for a portfolio of networking switches that Dell obtained through the acquisition of Force10 in 2011.

"A lot of the SDN noise you hear today is around 1 Gig Ethernet, university trials and smaller scale deployments," Arpit Joshipura, vice president of product management for Dell Networking, told Enterprise Networking Planet. "What we're doing is going after enterprise and cloud data centers that require more than just OpenFlow support."

Joshipura explained that enterprises and virtualized cloud data centers require a multi-pronged approach to SDN. It's a deployment approach that can leverage a hybrid switch and is enabled to interoperate with a control plane that can talk to multiple switch vendors and virtualization hypervisors.

"Our SDN implementation inside the switches allows us to scale much higher on the Layer2 and Layer 3 front and we can support multiple SDN controllers at the same time," Joshipura said.

From the controller standpoint, Dell has tested its OpenFlow enabled FTOS powered switches with the Big Switch SDN controller. Big Switch is the leading sponsor of the open source Floodlight controller and also sells the commercial Big Network controller.  Dell is now also in the process of testing with other SDN controller vendors.

"At the end of the day, if an SDN controller vendor follows the OpenFlow specifications, it's fairly straight forward, in terms of the interoperability," Joshipura said.

Dell is no stranger to the world of Software Defined Networking (SDN). In April 2012, the company announced its Virtual Networking Architecture (VNA). Joshipura explained that Dell's OpenFlow support is how it is implementing on its VNA strategy.

S4820T Switch

Dell is also expanding its switching portfolio with a new top of rack switch, the Dell S4820T. The S4820T can support up to four 40 Dell 4820tGbE uplinks with 48 x 10GbE ports. Joshipura said that the primary driver for the new switch is the adoption of Dell's 12G server platform. Dell's 12G server portfolio was first announced in February 2012, taking advantage of Intel's next generation Xeon-E5 chip architecture.

"As 10 gig NICs (Network Interface Cards) in the servers get pushed out, there is greater demand for a switch like this," Joshipura said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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