Voltaire Ethernet data center switch to take on Cisco Nexus

Infiniband vendor Voltaire took a big leap into the Ethernet data center switching arena with a core switch optimized for virtual environments and Layer 2 efficiency.

Voltaire’s first Ethernet switch, the Vantage 8500, is the embodiment of the company’s “Scale-Out Ethernet” data center architecture. The switch features a 12-slot 11.5Tbps chassis with a peak slot capacity of 960Gbps.

Initially, the Vantage 8500 will support 288 nonblocking 10G Ethernet ports, with future plans to accommodate 432 and 576 10G Ethernet ports with higher density line cards. Current Line card options include 24-port 10G Ethernet SFP+ nonblocking; 36-port 10G Ethernet SFP+; and 20-port 10G Ethernet plus eight port FibreChannel, which will come next year.

The switch supports the imminent Converged Enhanced Ethernet specifications from the IEEE, FibreChannel over Ethernet, Voltaire’s virtual switch fabric and I/O techniques, latency of less than 1 microsecond and less than 10 watts of power per port, Voltaire says.

Up to 12 Vantage 8500s can be clustered together to connect up to 3,400 servers, Voltaire says. It interoperates with standard Gigabit Ethernet and 10G Ethernet switches, and provides “fabric wide” congestion management and QoS, the company says.

Voltaire says the Vantage 8500’s congestion control and routing optimization silicon can detect and avoid impending congestion rather than react to it. Its patent pending Virtual I/O Port Objects (VIPO) technology, which the company says is "aligned" with Virtual Ethernet Bridging work in the IEEE, partitions each switch port into multiple independent virtual ports so they can be provisioned, monitored and mirrored as if they were physical ports.

VIPO policies can migrate across physical ports, Voltaire says.

Fabric virtualization allows the switch to be partitioned into virtual data centers. Each virtual data center consists of physical or virtual servers, with isolated virtual I/O to storage and network resources, Voltaire says.Servers can dynamically change and move while policy and SLA is maintained, and user access can be restricted to a virtual data center, the company says.

Voltaire says all of these features in the Vantage 8500 – VIPO, virtual fabric, congestion management, high throughput and low latency -- can eliminate a whole layer of aggregation switching in the data center. Top-of-rack server interconnect switches can connect directly to the core with an intermediary aggregation layer, resulting in a flatter, more scalable and energy efficient design, the company claims.

Voltaire is aiming the Vantage 8500 squarely at Cisco’s Nexus 7000 switches. Voltaire claims the switch provides a threefold increase in capacity and a twentyfold improvement in latency over the Nexus 7000, at one-third the power and half the cost.The Vantage 8500 costs $1,200 per 10G Ethernet port. It will ship in the second half of 2009. Voltaire said it will announce OEM partners for the switch in the coming months – Voltaire Infiniband OEMs include IBM, HP and Sun –- and hypervisor partners as early as this week.

This story, "Voltaire Ethernet data center switch to take on Cisco Nexus" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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