Extreme Announces Industry's First 10-Gigabit Copper Switch

Summit X650-24t "completes the 10GB ecosystem," lowering the cost bar for high-speed data-center operations.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Mar 12, 2009
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Santa Clara, Calif.-based Extreme Networks has announced the imminent shipping of its latest top-of-rack data center switch, the Summit X650-24t. The company says it's the first 10Gbps switch to reach the market that works with standard RJ-45 copper cabling.

Enterprise Networking Planet spoke to Extreme's director of data center marketing, Kevin Ryan, to get the details.

Ryan noted several over-riding themes bringing about a "transformation from a 1-gig network to a 10-gig network."

"We're seeing a number of factors that are greatly changing the data center environment," Ryan said. "The main thing you hear about a lot in the data center is this concept of 'computational density.' With the advent of blade servers and server virtualization in the data center, we're seeing a lot more data requirement on each server in the network." That is to say, individual servers are working harder than ever.

Another factor contributing to the overall increase in density is data center consolidation, Ryan explained. "We see a lot of companies going from multiple data centers down to just a few. In some cases a larger customer is going from sixty data centers down to six."

Consolidation in turn is being driven by an effort to bring down costs, and to create a more efficient computing environment. "The theory there," Ryan observed, "is that it's much more cost effective to manage a small number of data centers—you need less IT resources. The other factor is that you can more efficiently use those resources if they're in one location. You can get more out of your servers, more out of your storage systems, more out of your network, by having everything resident in one central data center."

And then there's security and government regulation. "A third thing that's driving consolidation—although you don't hear as much about this—is all the regulation that's going on, whether it's HIPAA or PCI or Sarbanes Oxley. It's much more efficient to control your network, from a security stance, if it's in a smaller number of locations," Ryan said.

Finally, Ryan cited a simpler, more prosaic reason for the pressure to pump up throughput capacity in the data center: rapidly growing network traffic loads, largely resulting from the exploding use of video.

"To be able to keep up with this consolidation and virtualization and increase in demand being led by video, the issue with going to 10 Gig in the network is that the 10-gig ecosystem hasn't been complete," Ryan told Enterprise Networking Planet.

Which is to say, until now, while it has been possible to deploy 10GbE networking gear—available from a number of prominent infrastructure vendors, including Extreme—such equipment has been available only with the far more costly fiber interface.

"Today, with this announcement, in combination with Intel, we're able to provide 10 Gig over standard Category 6a copper up to 100 meters in distance," Ryan said. That is, the X650-24t, in combination with, Intel's new 10GB copper-based network interface card (NIC) constitutes the first end-to-end 10GbE solution that works with RJ-45 cabling.

A 100 meter run of short-reach or long-reach fiber-based interface cabling could run as high as $1,000, according to Ryan, "—versus $5 for the RJ-45-based copper solution. So it's a huge economic advantage to be able to run over copper."

"In a data center—although a lot of these data centers are big—100 meters is usually plenty of distance to cover the runs—definitely from the server to the top-of-rack equipment, also from top-of-rack to the end-of-row installations," Ryan elaborated.

The recently completed interoperability took place in Intel's own interoperability lab, and demonstrated that the X650 switch integrated seamlessly with Intel's interface cards, making a complete, end-to-end, switch-to-server solution using economical copper cabling.

"We've just completed our beta testing with our beta customers," Ryan told Enterprise Networking Planet, "and we're going to be shipping it this month."

Moreover, "we've actually announced programs out in the field," Ryan said. "We've announced a deal through our distributor Tech Data, where they're bundling Intel's interface cards with our X650 switches. So it's a very tight ecosystem partnership—all the way out to field implementation and distribution."

Pricing for the 24-port Summit X650-24t will start at $19,995 USD.

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