Dell EMC bringing new 100GbE 64-port fabric switch to market

The Dell EMC Z9264F-ON is the new version of the company’s core and aggregation switch, replacing the Z9100, and has twice the number of ports of its predecessor.

The Dell EMC Z9264F-ON

Dell EMC has announced their latest Z-series 100GbE fabric switch, the Dell EMC Z9264F-ON. It doubles the capacity of the switch it replaces in their portfolio, and is intended to meet what the company sees as strong demand for the transition from 40GbE to 100GbE switches.

The new Dell EMC Z9264F-ON is designed primarily for data centre applications

“Our S series is top-of-the-rack,” said Jeff Baher, Director, Product & Technical Marketing at Dell EMC. “The Z series are our core and aggregation switches. This one replaces the Z9100, which was a 32x100GbE system. The Z9264F-ON is a 64×100 GbE system, with the 64 ports giving it double the capacity of its predecessor. We are positioning it for Web scale providers, Tier 1 and 2 service providers and large enterprises primarily.”

Dell EMC’s networking portfolio is entirely focused on open networking, and is in one of the few areas in which the company operates where it is cheerfully satisfied to have a limited focus rather than an all-encompassing strategy. That has implications in terms of giving them more flexibility in bringing new products to market than in their other business areas – in this case their 64 port 100GbE core and aggregation switch.

“When Dell EMC shows up in a market in networking, it says a lot about the nature of the market itself,” Baher said. “It means the market is ripe for adoption. 100GbE is growing in the mainstream and moving from early adopters to becoming the new basis for how you connect in the data centre. We expect 100GbE port shipments to grow from 4.6 million in 2017 to 19.4 million in 2022, and revenue to increase from $2.7 billion in 2017 to $4.9 billion in 2022.”

They expect a large surge in the shifts from 40GbE to 100GbE in the technologies that connect the racks together, in the same way that the transition to 25G from 10G will happen much faster than the earlier one from 1 GB to 10 GB, as data centres continue to scale their performance.

“These transitions will happen much faster than in past generations, as data centres continue to scale their performance,” Baher said.

The Dell EMC Z9264F-ON is powered by Broadcom’s  6.4 Terabit/second Ethernet switching silicon, StrataXGS Tomahawk II. It is smaller than its predecessor, coming in a compact 2RU form factor.

“Our 40 GBE had a bigger chassis than this one,” Baher said. “For a large enterprise, you now need four. Before, you would have needed six.”

Dell’s Open Networking focus is designed to facilitate customers’ transition to software-defined networking, and the Z9264F-ON comes to market with a strategic partner ecosystem that covers the spectrum of use cases. At one end are the commercial ones involving the Dell EMC converged stack and open networking stack with Dell EMC service and support, and commercial software partners like Big Switch Networks, Cumulus, IP Infusion and  Pluribus Networks. At the other are disaggregated open source stacks with partners like Metaswitch and Quagga from the open source community.

“This is pretty significant,” Baher said. “There are no other switches that have this level of capability, from commercial software to open source, and from aggregated to full disaggregation. It’s a unique view compared to other 100GbE systems which are closed.”

Baher emphasized that another advantage of the open source process with this switch is that it addresses the much broader ecosystem involved in making decisions about data centre networking than in the days of proprietary switches, when the expectations of a network admin would have to be met.

“Different people are now making decisions about network data centre adoption,” he stated. “The architecture is not the only thing evolving. Data centre networking people are as well. People who like open source aren’t always the same people who like full stack. This enables a greater amount of choice for the people in the driver’s seat.”

The Dell EMC Z9264F-ON is  a strong direct product, but Baher said that there is a channel angle as well.

“It’s definitely a combination,” he said. “It certainly involves us working directly with various customers. but there’s more of a consultative role for partners that can be introduced into this model than before. There’s more of a selection process over hardware, software and in what combination, and what additional value-add capabilities that can be done.”

Dell EMC will be displaying the Z9264F-ON at VMworld between August 26 and 30. They will ship immediately afterwards, on August 31, 2018.