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Cisco Switching Alternatives - Interop NYC 2013

2713ce8f9b3998a74cf3dee9b86ce7e5?s=47 Ethan Banks
October 02, 2013

Cisco Switching Alternatives - Interop NYC 2013

This session provides an overview of Cisco competitors in the Ethernet switching space, including not only established players but also startups taking innovative and original approaches.


Ethan Banks

October 02, 2013

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  1. Alternatives To Cisco Ethernet Switches Ethan Banks, CCIE #20655 Packet

    Pushers Podcast Host http://packetpushers.net
  2. Introduction – 1 Who am I? •  Ethan Banks, CCIE

    #20655. •  Real-life network architect. •  Co-host of the Packet Pushers Podcast. •  Freelance writer for Network Computing, Network World, TechTarget. •  Just so you know…I am a Cisco, Juniper & Arista switch user. In the past, I have worked on HP & Cabletron switches. Also, these and several other companies I’ll talk about are actively or have been customers of mine.
  3. Introduction - 2 Do you recognize these?

  4. Introduction - 3 What about these?

  5. Introduction - 4 Why Cisco? •  Familiarity. Going with what

    you know is often a driver for purchase decisions. •  Risk avoidance. •  No one gets fired for buying Cisco. Who could blame you? •  Cisco is a huge company. They’ll be there tomorrow. •  Lots of support folks available. You’ll need someone someday. •  Reputation. Everyone knows Cisco.
  6. Introduction - 5 Why not Cisco? •  Cisco wants to

    sell you lots of new hardware. •  Tending to be technology trailers, not innovators. •  Many competitors have innovated to win mindshare. •  Cisco often doesn’t win on price, neither capex nor opex. •  Going from Catalyst to Nexus impacts operations.
  7. Introduction - 6 Assuming you’re open minded… •  There are

    many Ethernet switching competitors. •  Some compete on price. •  Some compete on features. •  Some want to offer an integrated DC solution. •  The most innovative technology in the space (fabrics, SDN, OpenFlow) have been coming from Cisco competitors.
  8. Introduction - 7 …let’s talk. •  One category of competitor

    are the established players. Let’s place Avaya, Brocade, HP, Extreme/ Enterasys, Dell Force10, Arista, IBM, Juniper, and Netgear (!) here. •  The other category I think of as outliers. This includes Plexxi, Gnodal, Pica8, Cumulus, NEC, Mellanox, and Big Switch.
  9. Introduction - 8 What Might Drive An Ethernet Switch Purchase?

    •  Price – capex & opex •  Performance – oversubscription vs. non-blocking •  Heat & Power – BTUs, watts per port •  Port density – how many ports fits in an RU? •  Latency – roughly defined as the amount of time it takes to deliver a datagram port to port •  Programmability – OpenFlow? Other API?
  10. Established Players - 1 Avaya •  Purchased Nortel’s enterprise business

    in 2009. •  Full switch range suitable for the enterprise space. •  Differentiator: Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture (VENA) •  Fabric Connect component of VENA is probably the most interesting element – Shortest Path Bridging (802.1aq). At L2 VLANs are mapped to service IDs. At L3, VRFs. Result is dynamic mobility for VMs.
  11. Established Players - 2 Brocade •  Purchased Foundry Networks in

    2008. •  Mostly thought of as a storage player, but has pushed hard to get more of the data center business. •  Full range of switches. •  Differentiators: VCS Fabric (based on TRILL), AMPP, “ease of use”
  12. Established Players - 3 Hewlett-Packard (HP) •  Purchased 3Com in

    2009. •  Excessively full range of switches. •  Product lines are a mix of “ProCurve” and “H3C”. •  Differentiator: FlexNetwork Architecture (FlexFabric, FlexCampus, FlexBranch), IRF •  “Flex” is a collection of technologies HP assembles (TRILL, SPB, IRF, EVB, VEPA).
  13. Established Players - 4 Extreme & Enterasys •  Extreme purchased

    Enterasys in 2013. •  Does this match up mean something? •  Almost no sales territory overlap. •  $600M in aggregate revenue expected. •  Extreme is all Broadcom. Enterasys has custom ASICs. •  Enterasys is a strong wifi play, anticipates all-wifi access layer. •  Enterasys brings strong network management to the table.
  14. Established Players - 5 Extreme & Enterasys •  Extreme has

    a full line of switches, but not “exciting.” •  Enterasys might be the best kept secret in enterprise networking. Mature solution – since 2001. •  Differentiator: CoreFlow ASIC allows Enterasys to track L4-L7 data about endpoints & apply policy. •  Integrations with AirWatch, Citrix, iBoss, MobileIron, PaloAlto, VMware, Hyper-V.
  15. Established Players - 6 Dell Force10 •  Dell purchased Force10

    in 2011. •  Dell’s offerings are a mix of SMB gear (generic Dell) & “Data Center Networking” gear (Force10). •  The point for Dell is to have a play across the entire DC, complementing their storage & server business. •  Differentiator: Dell Networking Open Automation
  16. Established Players - 7 Arista •  Value proposition is high-density,

    low-latency switches at a low cost per port. •  Emphasis on engineer-friendliness. •  Focused on high-volume data centers. •  Arista espouses a L3 mesh with L2 overlay design. •  Differentiator: Extensible OS, their pride & joy. •  OpenWorkload leverages EOS.
  17. Established Players - 8 IBM •  IBM acquired Blade Network

    Technologies in 2010. •  IBM doesn’t want to sell you a switch. They want to sell you a business system (that includes switches). •  Differentiator: Flex System Fabric Network – integrated FC, FCoE, Ethernet, & Infiniband managed by a single GUI (with CLI for the fancy stuff), and extended into the virtual switching layer.
  18. Established Players - 9 Juniper •  2 main switching lines:

    QFX & EX. •  QFX are positioned for top-of-rack or end-of-row data center deployment, and as the access layer of a QFabric system. •  EX are positioned for enterprise, campus, DC & service provider. •  Full line of switches. •  Network engineers tend to love Junos. •  Differentiator – Virtual Chassis. Manage up to 10 switches as a single device.
  19. Established Players - 10 Netgear •  Who? Don’t they make

    consumer grade gear to sell at big box stores? •  They are highly visible in the consumer space, but do sell enterprise gear…and have for years. Roots go back to Bay Networks (remember them?) •  Differentiator – simplicity for the SMB customer.
  20. Outliers - 1 Plexxi •  Thought leaders in the SDN

    space. •  Data from applications & flow inform a controller. •  Operators configure “affinities”. •  Differentiator – hardware & software solution. •  Novel optical interconnect using DWDM providing direct links to a mesh of switches, “LightRail”. •  Controller programs optimal paths based on affinities. •  Data Services Engine normalizes & abstracts data sources.
  21. Outliers - 2 Gnodal •  L2 Ethernet switching with proprietary

    interconnects for “high performance” environments. •  Going after Infiniband environments. •  Distributed core. •  Scales to 64K ports & 52 million MACs. •  Differentiator – Peta ASIC + custom algorithms result in nearly 100% fabric utilization.
  22. Outliers - 3 Pica8 •  Emphasis on open networking via

    PicOS. •  They make 4 “white box” switches, all non-blocking with 1 microsecond or less latency. •  Reportedly low cost per port. •  Differentiator - a cheap switch with all the usual L2/ L3 functionality, plus support for OpenFlow 1.3 to support any sort of clever SDN you’d like to deploy.
  23. Outliers - 4 Cumulus •  This isn’t a switch…it’s a

    “Linux operating system for networking hardware.” Load Cumulus Linux on a bare metal switch; run the network Linux-y. •  They are not merely based on Linux, but are in fact completely Linux, bash shell and all. •  Differentiator – run open-source OS & tools on your network hardware*. Leave behind proprietary. *just be sure to check the tiny HCL.
  24. Outliers - 5 NEC ProgrammableFlow •  ProgrammableFlow is an OpenFlow-based

    combination of a controller and Ethernet switches. •  By SDN, I mean you don’t configure these switches directly. You plumb them to the controller, and use the controller to configure the switches via OpenFlow. •  Differentiator - the most mature pure SDN solution on the market.
  25. Outliers - 6 Mellanox •  High performance, non-blocking data center-focused

    switches using custom ASICs. •  ConnectX – NICs •  SwitchX - switches •  Open-sourced their OS, calling it “Open Ethernet”. •  Differentiator: run Ethernet and Infiniband in the same switch, and bridge between the two.
  26. Outliers - 7 Big Switch •  A longtime leader in

    the SDN space. •  Solution is an OpenFlow controller + switch OS. •  Big Switch Controller is the commercial offering. •  FloodLight is the open source offering. •  Switch Light – thin OS programmed via OpenFlow to run on bare metal switches. •  Main applications are Big Virtual Switch & Big Tap. •  Differentiator – long list of partners.
  27. Concluding Thoughts Should I really think about SDN when buying

    an Ethernet switch? •  Yes. You might not need SDN today, but vendors see SDN as the next big thing to drive technology, and consequently sales. Wise to keep up. •  Don’t get hung up on OpenFlow, but keep track of it. •  The OpenDaylight Project could end up being important. Monitor progress.
  28. QoS Collaborative Q & A Q & A

  29. Stay In Touch! Where you can find me… •  http://PacketPushers.net

    Podcast (iTunes) •  http://ethancbanks.com Blog •  http://NetworkComputing.com Blog •  @ecbanks Twitter •  ethan.banks@packetpushers.net E-mail •  Also LinkedIn & Google Plus