Dell Activates Network Fabric

There was a time when the LAN and SAN were two entirely separate logical and physical domains. In the modern era of convergence and Software Defined Networking (SDN), the goal is to knock down legacy silos and manage networks as a single fabric.

In an effort to help enable this new network reality, Dell Networking today announced its Active Fabric solution, which provides management and operational control of a converged network. Dell is also announcing a new 1U converged LAN/SAN top-of-rack switch to further enable network convergence.

Arpit Joshipura, vice president of networking product marketing at Dell, explained to Enterprise Networking Planet that the rapid growth of traffic within data centers demands an expansion and automation of the fabric for next-generation workloads.

The Dell Active Fabric Manager is a design and provisioning software tool with roots in the Force10 automation suite. Dell acquired Force10 in July of 2011 and has been building out its networking portfolio ever since.

“The Dell Active Fabric Manager is really a single pane of glass user interface manager that automates design, deployment, and monitoring,” Joshipura said. “So no CLIs are needed and no consultants are required to come in and tell you what to do.”

The Fabric is aware of multiple flavors of storage, including IP storage, Fibre Channel, and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE).

S5000 Switch

The new S5000 switch family offers both 10 GbE and 40 GbE capabilities on the LAN, as well as Fibre Chanel and Dell S5000FCoE. The S5000 can be provisioned with as many as sixty-four 10 GbE ports and has a mix-and-match modular form factor to enable multiple combinations of LAN and SAN traffic.

By using a converged switching platform, up to 50 percent of the cabling that would be required in a traditional siloed LAN/SAN deployment can be removed, Joshipura said.

He further explained that from a total network perspective, whether a data center uses converged switches or blades, the Active Fabric software can to stitch the network together into a cohesive whole.

The ability to manage a converged network and have it all under one management view might also have been possible with direct access to the Command Line Interface (CLI) on the various components in a data center deployment. Joshipura stressed, however, that putting together a converged network with CLI alone requires skills and time that not all data center personnel have today.

“As we get beyond the networking admins and server admins take over a lot more because they have more money to spend, we’re hitting Dell’s mid-market sweet spot,” Joshipura said. “They are looking for simplistic ways to stitch the network elements together and that’s what the Active Fabric management software is all about.”

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

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