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Extreme Networks prepares to ship 'world's fastest Ethernet switch'

Extreme's BlackDiamond X8 went on general sale this week, with a UK customer already under its belt

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Extreme Networks' latest switch, the BlackDiamond X8, billed as the “fastest Ethernet switch in the world”, went on general release this week with shipments expected to go out during the first half of February.

The BlackDiamond X8 takes up one-third of a data centre rack and has a switching capacity of over 20Tbps, or 1.28Tbps per slot. It can support 768 wire-speed 10G Ethernet ports – which is industry-leading density – and 192 wire-speed 40G Ethernet ports, according to Extreme.

Port-to-port latency on the X8 is less than 3 microseconds. It consumes 5 watts per 10G port and supports 128,000 virtual machines, the company says. The switch supports a new architecture for Extreme, in that the mid-plane is reserved only for management traffic; business data never crosses the mid-plane.

In independent performance tests by Lippis Reports, the BlackDiamond X8 tested 3-10X faster than any core Ethernet switch in its form factor, and had the lowest latency and best power efficiency per port. Nick Lippis, principal analyst for The Lippis Report, described it as “the best-in-class choice for high-performance networks”.

According Gary Newbold, Extreme Networks' managing director for the UK and Ireland, the release of the X8 and the hype that surrounded its launch at Interop last year has helped to open up new markets for the company.

“We're talking to large finance organisations that we've not really talked to in a while, based on the fact that we've just not had the product,” said Newbold. “In finance latency's really important, so from transaction start to end it's important to make that as quick as possible. We're the market leader now for latency in the core switch, so that should attract lots of attention.”

Extreme has already sold its first X8 switch to a research institution, where pure power and density is important for carrying out extremely complex calculations using high performance computing (HPC).

“We're expecting to make a significant difference and take the market by storm,” said Newbold. “This is by no means a 'me too' product; it beats our competition in every respect. So we're very excited by that and expect it to significantly increase revenues.”

Extreme is not the only networking company to be rolling out modular 40Gbps Ethernet products. Dell's Z9512 supports 96 line rate 40G ports, and Cisco and other data centre switching vendors are expected to see some ramp in their own 40G switches and port modules this year.

However, Newbold believes that Extreme has an advantage, because the BlackDiamond X8 is far in advance of its competitors in terms of efficiency – something that will become a massive consideration for data centre managers as new sustainable energy legislation comes into effect in 2012.

“There's more and more pressure in the public sector, and increasingly in the enterprise, because at some point we're going to move into being taxed on your energy efficiency, so anything you can do to reduce it will help,” said Newbold. “Clearly in a tender situation, where you're drawing one feature against another, that plays a huge part.”


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