The BlackDiamond X8, which Extreme Networks first announced last spring, is now shipping. If you are struggling with density and oversubscription problems in your data center core, this chassis might solve it. The BDX8 packs 768×10 (Gigabit Ethernet) GbE ports or 192×40 GbE ports into a third of rack, at wire-speed.
In other words, you can pack 2,304 ports of 10 GbE into a single rack containing three BDX8 chassis. Other vendors might offer somewhat comparable density but only in an oversubscribed configuration. To get this amount of wire-speed 10 GbE ports with Cisco Nexus 7010 switches, you would need to fill six racks with 12 chassis. That’s a lot of capital expense, a lot of switches to manage and a lot of real estate in a data center. Also, note that the Nexus 7010 is a half-rack chassis. The 18-slot Nexus 7018 has higher density (768 wirespeed 10 GbE ports) but you’re only going to squeeze one of those into a single rack.
Extreme disclosed that Microsoft has been beta testing the chassis in the data center for its Executive Briefing Center in Redmond.
Prior to this release, Arista Networks’ 7508 chassis had the most impressive wire-speed port density (albeit only with 10 GbE). Arista’s 7508 packs 384 wire-speed 10 GbE ports into a chassis that is only 11 rack units with 8 I/O slots.
Then you have some of the newer data center fabrics, like Juniper’s QFabric, which you can’t really compare to the BDX8 from a pure speeds and feeds perspective, since Juniper positions an entire QFabric deployment as a single, logical switch chassis that has been exploded into scores of individual devices.
Not a lot of people need port density like this yet, let alone this kind of 40 GbE port density. And if they do need this kind of density, chances are they can live with oversubscription. While Extreme has a flashy flagship switch to show off, a lot of enterprises will be looking at Extreme’s overall network architecture, rather than just the impressive density. Cloud providers, high performance computing environments and financial services companies will give it a look. It leaves me wondering what will come next from competitors like Cisco, Dell-Force10, etc.