Extreme Black Diamond Modules Allow Evolution to 10 GbE

Back in March of this year, Enterprise Networking Planet reported on the release of Extreme Networks’ 10 GbE top-of-rack data center switch solution, the Summit X650.

This week, Extreme announced the imminent release of the final component of its 10 GbE portfolio, the BlackDiamond 8900 chassis-based switch—or, more properly, a set of upgrade modules—one 10 GbE switching fabric or “management” module and two NIC or “line card” modules, one supporting 24 10GbE ports and one with 96 GbE ports—that can be retrofitted into the company’s model 8806 and 8810 chasses.

Extreme is touting the BlackDiamond 8900 solution as an end-of-row aggregation component.

According to Kevin Ryan, Extreme’s director of data center solutions, the modular upgrade approach represents a significant cost savings. With the BlackDiamond solution, a data center can take advantage of the new 10 gigabit technology without having to do a forklift upgrade. “You just change the management module and the service blades, keeping existing chassis intact,” Ryan said.

“Data centers are evolving from 1 gig to 10 gig, as a wholesale change,” Ryan elaborated,  “and the ability in the same chassis to be able to upgrade performance from 1 to 10 gig—and to do that in a flexible way over time—is very important to the customer.”

This is especially true under current economic conditions, where automatic approvals for IT purchases can’t be taken for granted. Organizations are scrutinizing expenditures very carefully.

What’s driving this data center evolution? A combination of factors, according to Ryan.

First, even in the past year, there’s been an explosion in data traffic. Traffic has typically grown in excess of 100 percent, due to the increased use of resource intensive applications such as high definition video, Web 2.0 social platforms, and unified communications collaboration.

There has been a corresponding growth in “computational density” thanks to the increased deployment of multi-core processors and blade servers in large-scale virtualization, Ryan said.

“A year ago, you typically had 3 to 10 virtual machines on a server,” he said. “Today, some organizations have 30, 40, 50, 60 virtual machines per server. And there’s been a similar increase for storage density and performance.”

Another factor driving the evolutionary push is the constantly growing need for what Ryan calls “network agility.” By this he means that the configuration and reconfiguration of network architectures need to by highly automated—subject to rapid management by “extensibility interfaces.”

So how “dense,” how scalable is the BlackDiamond 8900 solution? It’s dense. It supports a maximum of 582 10GbE ports per server rack. In terms of throughput, it will handle 128Gbps, “non-blocking,” per slot or line card with the 8806 chassis, and 80Gbps with the 8810. That’s a lot of bandwidth. According to Ryan, these specs make the BlackDiamond 8900 the industry leading solution in both port density and bandwidth per line card.

And to make a good thing even better, Extreme’s architecture allows the BlackDiamond to boast industry-leading power consumption efficiency as well. At a maximum 2 watts per gigabit port and 10 Watts per 10 gigabit port (which Ryan says in the real world typically runs only about 70 percent of those specs), the 8900 has about one-third the power consumption of the equivalent Cisco equipment, and about one-half of the equivalent Foundry solution.

“A year ago, if you’d asked me about this whole green initiative and power consumption issue, I would have thought it was interesting, but I didn’t think customers were making buying decisions based on power consumption,” Ryan told Enterprise Networking Planet. “That’s dramatically changed this year. It’s become a key driver.”

Moreover, thanks to Extreme’s unified operating system across the entire product portfolio, combined with built-in automation and programmability provided by the Universal Port feature and Web-services extensibility based on an XML interface and XML SDK, “we make this product very easy to use and automate in the data center,” Ryan said.

” A lot of managed hosting environments have their own in-house-developed provisioning and management platforms,” he elaborated. “The XML interface makes it much easier to integrate into those environments: You don’t have to go down into the system level and CLI level; you can do it at a Web services level.”

And of course one of the more basic things you can do with an automation-capable infrastructure is power down equipment at off-peak periods and otherwise introduce power-saving measures.

Extreme will be demonstrating the BlackDiamond 8900 component live at Interop, and shipping “for revenue” in June, according to Ryan.

The management switch module, BlackDiamond 8900-MSM128 has a U.S. list price of $25,000. The 8900-10G24X-c (24 10-Gb-port line card) module will sell for  $45,000. The 8900-G96T-c (96 gigabit-port) module will sell for $25,000.

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