Future-ready capability highlights new Dell campus, enterprise networking solutions

Dell unveils its second 100 GbE S-Series switch for the data centre, as well as a new campus architecture which has 100 GbE capacity for the future.

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprises Division Institutionnel Portraits

Tom Burns, vice president and general manager, Dell Networking and Enterprise Infrastructure

Today Dell is announcing significant new enhancements to both its campus and data centre networking portfolios. The campus side features a brand new architecture which provides future-ready capabilities while also supporting customers’ existing N-series equipment through a software upgrade. The data centre portfolio gains the S6100-ON, which Dell is touting as the Industry’s first multi-rate modular in-rack switch.

“On the campus and branch side, we are making both an architecture announcement and a product announcement,” said Tom Burns, vice president and general manager, Dell Networking and Enterprise Infrastructure. “On the data centre side, we are offering more functionality and choices to the customer.”

The campus announcement is a new unified architecture designed for mid to large-scale campus environments.

“Managing the campus has been challenging historically because it has required managing multiple nodes,” Burns said. “The C9000 is a follow-on to the C7000, but is a brand new chassis with a new architecture and a new design. This new architecture is a director type of platform which we think is differentiated from the competition because of the way it simplifies and centralizes to provide a single management view for the entire campus. It looks like you are managing one switch as opposed to many switches.” The C1048 Rapid Access Node, also being announced today, is required to provide this simplicity.

The first platform for the new architecture is the Dell Networking C9010 Network Director. The feeds and speeds are impressive, but more significant is the ability to support both the 10Gb Ethernet customers are using today as well as the 100GbE of the future.

“It enables up to 2000 ports right away, and in first half of next year will support up to 4000 ports,” Burns said. “The backplane is 100GbE ready with a unique tool-less mounting to upgrade to full-width line cards. We also have a very strong differentiation by enabling existing N-series products to move to this one network vision, unlike our competitors which are ‘rip and replace. This architecture helps customers move to future-ready IT by providing a historical, hybrid and future ready capability which is not there on the existing Dell platform. In Q1, any customer that has purchased N-series product over the last year and a half will be able to convert them through a software upgrade.”

Burns acknowledged that campus networking customers today are not clamouring for 100 GbE gear, and that we are still quite a ways from that day. But he also stressed that the expected lifespan of this chassis will take it to the day when 100GbE demand in campus environments will be significant.

“We don’t see it as necessary for campus at this point in time but they will support it when it does, while competitor products today won’t,” he said. “You also never know how fast requirements will evolve with the growth of video when 100GbE will be necessary on campus. We don’t see it in a 3-5 year span, but we see this chassis as having 10 year confidence for customers.”

The data centre product is the Dell Networking S6100-ON, and is the second S-Series switch with a 100GbE capacity.

“It has multi-rate connectivity, which gives customers the ability to switch modules at multiple speeds from 10 GbE to 100 GbE,” Burns said. Expansion modules provide the capability of delivering various combinations of port speeds, with both QSFP28 and CXP port choices for flexibility in deployment. This includes up to 32 ports 100GbE, 64 ports 40GbE, 128 ports of 10GbE. 128 ports of 25GbE and 64 ports of 50GbE

“Another differentiation is that it is Open Networking enables, so if a customer wants it to support Cumulus or BigSwitch rather than Dell OS9, it can, and can switch around between them as well,” Burns added.

Early reaction to the new switch has been stronger than expected.

“We have been overwhelmed at the reception, from medium enterprises to webscale customers,” Burns said. “Because it is modular, it gives them great investment protection.”

Burns acknowledged that in the past, Dell Networking has operated under a handicap in that customers were skeptical because Dell was the new kid at the table in networking. He stated, however, that those problems are finally in the past.

“I believe we have put it behind us,” he said. “There was a concern around Dell Networking and awareness of our portfolio, but between the open networking initiatives we launched, and the disruption we created, like being the first to announce 100 GbE in campus networking, we have overcome that. We have gotten the recognition, including strong analyst reports. The traction is there and acceptance of Dell Networking is there.”

Dell Networking C9010 and C1048P will be available in October, 2015.

Dell Networking S6100-ON will be available in the first calendar quarter of 2016.