The final presentation of Network Field Day 2 came from Force 10. Now, Force 10 is a part of the larger Dell Networking umbrella. This includes their campus PowerConnect switching line as well as the datacenter-focused equipment from Force 10. We arrived at the old Force 10 headquarters and noticed a couple of changes since last year. Mainly lots of new round, four letter logos everywhere. As well, the office seemed slightly rearranged. We walked back to a large common area where tables and chairs were assembled for the presentation.
To say Dell Force 10 brought the big guns is an understatement. I counted no less that 15 people in the room that were a part of Force 10, from engineers to marketing to executive. They all turned out to see the traveling circus sideshow we put on. Although we didn’t get the same zero-slide whiteboard-only affair from last year, Dell Force 10 took the time to ask each one of us what we would like to hear from them during the presentation. That little touch helped put us at ease and allowed us to tell them up front what we were hoping to see. I specifically asked about the branding of Dell Force 10 alongside the PowerConnect line.
Dell kept the slides somewhat short and did manage to address many topics that we put on the whiteboard before we started. I was happy to learn that while Force 10 equipment would stay primarily in the data center realm, the Force10OS (FTOS) that is so beloved by many would be finding its way into the PowerConnect line at some point in the coming months. One of my many gripes about the PowerConnect line is the horr^H^H^H^Hdifficult OS. In fact, I was the only person in the office that knew CTRL+H was Backspace. Whether or not the underlying packet flinging mechanism is superior, having a CLI coded by monkeys doesn’t really help me get my job accomplished. Now that I can look forward to getting FTOS on all of Dell’s equipment, my ire may go down a little.
After the positioning talk, Dell Force 10 jumped into talking about some of its hardware, specifically the Z9000. The specs are pretty impressive. It can run all 128 ports at line rate 10GBE or use 40GBE modules in 32 ports at line rate. The power draw for a fully loaded box is a svelte 800 watts (6.25 watts per port) which did generate some healthy discussion about the power consumption of a 10GBE SR fiber module. I tend to err on the side that there is a little more power draw that 7 watts, but if Dell can produce numbers to support their claim I’ll be a believer. Dell Force 10 also says that there is support for TRILL in the Z9000 which will help it create a spine-leaf node fabric, their term for the core and aggregation layers of switching in a data center. I think the Z9000 has some interesting applications and am curious to see how it fares with the offerings put forth by Cisco and Juniper.
No one was more surprised than me that Dell bought Force 10 instead of Brocade. But, after reflection it did make sense. Now we get to see the fruit of that acquisition. Dell has positioned Force 10 directly into the data center and it has allowed them to build a top to bottom strategy in the data center, which they lacked before. Their hardware is fairly impressive from the information we were given and the familiarity of FTOS means that we aren’t going to spend days relearning things. I wonder if Dell is going to use Force10 in a niche market alongside large server deployments or if they hope that Force10 will catch fire in existing data centers and start replacing legacy gear. One can only hope for the former, as the latter won’t leave a lot of room for Dell to recoup their investment.
Tech Field Day Disclaimer
Dell Force10 was a sponsor of Network Field Day 2, as as such was responsible for paying a portion of my travel and lodging fees. They also provided us with a pint glass with the Dell Networking logo, a Dell sticker, and a USB drive containing presentations and markting collateral. At no time did Dell Force10 ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the drafting of this review. The analysis and opinions herein are mine and mine alone.