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Enterasys revamps high-end Ethernet switch line

Enterasys this week is introducing a major upgrade to its Ethernet switch line in an effort to better serve converged networks, including those that are heavily virtualized.

The S-Series boasts an almost fourfold increase in switching capacity and a 10x increase in throughput over the predecessor N-Series, plus greater 10G port density. In addition, the switches come with improved policy-based security features, a traditional Enterasys differentiator.

All that, plus efficient Power-over-Ethernet provisioning, should enable customers to better network VoIP, wireless LAN and assorted data center products, including those from Siemens Enterprise Communications Group, the outfit Enterasys merged with last year. The rollout also could catalyze Enterasys' share of the $19 billion Ethernet switching market, which has been essentially flat (Dell-Oro Group says the vendor's share was 1.3% in the third quarter of 2007 and 1.1% as recently as the second quarter of 2009).

Analysts say it's about time Enterasys refreshed the top line. The N-Series is several years old, and though enhanced several times over that period, it still wasn't fully convergence capable.

“They ran out of room on the backplane of the N,” says Steve Schuchart of Current Analysis. “Different sheet metal is required – if you need S-Series capability, you need a new switch.”

The S-Series switching line is comprised of 1U, 3-slot, 4 -slot, and 8-slot chassis, depending on the application: a network edge access switch, distribution layer switch, a multi-terabit core router, or as a data center virtualization system.

For virtualized environments, the S-Series can be configured and policy-defined to identify virtual hosts supported by VMware, XenServer and HyperV hypervisors and assign ports, access controls and class of service parameters for each, Enterasys says. These policies can then follow the virtual server as it moves around the data center, the company says.

For cloud computing, Enterasys says the S-Series can identify on-demand applications, automatically prioritize them based on user ID, and authorize and control network access.

Total switching capacity for the S-Series initially is 1.28Tbps and throughput measures 950Mpps, Enterasys says. The S-Series backplane, though, is designed to support greater than 6Tbps of capacity, the company says.

The N-Series topped out at 1.68Tbps and 94.5Mpps.

The system is capable of 160Gbps per slot supporting up to 128 10G ports, 100 more than the N-Series. This capacity also prepares the switch for 40/100Gbps Ethernet, expected next year.

The S-Series also includes many standard features that competitors might charge extra for. They include:

• Automated provisioning of virtual and physical server connectivity;

• A distributed switching and system management architecture;

• Self-healing functionality, in which switching and routing applications are distributed across multiple modules in the event of a module failure;

• Multiple discovery methods, such as Cisco Discovery Protocol and LLDP-MED, to identify and provision services to IP phones and wireless access points from major vendors;

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