Dell has unveiled new networking products for scale-out cloud computing environments and detailed its strategy to help customers follow a pathway to a software-defined networking (SDN) model in future.
As part of a push towards more flexible data centre networks, Dell has announced the Dell Networking Z9500 Ethernet fabric switch and Dell Active Fabric Controller, plus a partnership with Red Hat to develop building blocks for network function virtualisation (NFV) in the carrier services market.
Available immediately, the Z9500 fabric switch is designed for building data centre networks with a flattened architecture, where there are no more than two hops between any two servers.
This is required in order to meet the needs of cloud computing and virtualisation, where a lot more traffic is now between servers inside the data centre, said Arpit Joshipura, vice president of product managemet for Dell Networking.
In order to meet this requirement, the Z9500 crams up to 132 Ethernet ports into its 3U rack-mount chassis, offering double the density of Cisco's Nexus 9000 switches at half the power consumption of the older Nexus 6000 line, Dell claimed.
However, Dell is also claiming a first with a new "pay-as-you-grow" licensing model for owning the Z9500, which lets customers pay only for the number of ports they need to use, but also whether these run at 1Gbps, 10Gbps or 40Gbps.
"Customers can get the switch, pay for just 36 ports, and as they buy more licences, they can activate more ports," said Joshipura.
Dell is also releasing its Active Fabric Controller, designed to enable the OpenStack cloud framework to operate in a software-defined networking (SDN) environment.
This works with the Neutron network module of OpenStack to provide automated provisioning and orchestration of network services, according to Dell.
"You can dynamically stitch the fabric in real time using OpenStack, so that if you want to spin up a new workload, the network will automatically reconfigure and reallocate resources around that with no manual intervention required," Joshipura explained.
Customers can also insert layer 4-7 services via the Active Fabric Controller, such as Dell's SonicWall security appliance, according to Dell.
One use case for the Active Fabric Controller in enabling network function virtualisation (NFV) inside a carrier data centre, Joshipura said, where software virtual appliances are used to replace specialised network functions such as session border controllers.
As part of this, Dell is partnering with Red Hat to support the Active Fabric Controller in OpenStack cloud deployments, he added.
Red Hat recently released its Red Hat Cloud Infrastructure 4.0, which integrates Red Hat Enterprise Linux with OpenStack, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualisation (RHEV) and management tools, in a bid to drive wider enterprise and service provider adoption of OpenStack.
Dell said that its approach to SDN is to let customers choose which path they want to follow, rather than trying to force them down a particular route.
"The market has been fragmented by the vendors, and there are three camps: a proprietary camp including Cisco who are only opening their interfaces; the OpenFlow camp including HP, and the hypervisor camp including VMware," Joshipura explained.
Dell is giving customers a choice, by offering tight integration with all three camps, he claimed. "We have tight integration with Cisco, we have tight integration with VMware, and we have had OpenFlow supported for quite some time now. This resonates quite well with our customers," he said.
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