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Force10 Networks moves to terascale backplane

Posted: 20 Sep 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:force10 networks? switch/routing system? terascale e-series? backplane? processor?

Force10 Networks Inc. is upgrading its switch/routing systems to the TeraScale E-series family, using a new backplane and revamped processors to offer an aggregate backplane speed of 5Tbps, and aggregate switching fabric throughput of 1.68Tbps.

The company has designed the upgrade of its original EtherScale family with an eye on the eventual arrival of 100GbE. In the meantime, a TeraScale system can support 672GbE ports and fifty-six 10GbE ports.

The three TeraScale family membersE300, E600 and E1200preserve the nomenclature of the EtherScale series, and customers can make direct upgrades from the EtherScale 1/6 rack, 1/3 rack and 1/2 rack models. Existing customers of EtherScale can purchase new route processor modules and new line cards to gain many of the speed benefits of TeraScale, Force10 said.

Steve Garrison, senior director of corporate marketing at Force10 , said that customers with visualization applications and with oil and gas field applications are driving the need for switching large image packets. Force10 may have cut its teeth as a pioneer in native switched 10Gb channels, but demand for 100Gb service will emerge faster than public-network 40Gb skeptics think, Garrison said. Among Force10's leading customers are Google, Dell and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and its TeraGrid project; these power users may need a faster upgrade to high-end switching than a typical Ethernet switch user, Garrison said.

No packet loss

The TeraScale architecture handles dual-stack IPv4 and IPv6 services simultaneously, and the company said its systems take no performance hits when up to 1 million access control lists are processed. For resilient systems in carrier applications, TeraScale suffers no packet loss in a hitless failover at Gbps rates, the company said.

The basic partitioning from the EtherScale family is preserved in TeraScale. Three PowerPC processors are used in the route processor module (RPM) for switching, routing and management, respectively; though higher-performance family members were utilized in the TeraScale RPM. These are augmented on the RPM board with ASICs for buffer management and backplane scheduling. The line card uses a local PowerPC for backplane access, along with a ternary CAM, Gigabit Ethernet medium-access controller and ASICs for switching interfaces.

1,500 ports

The line cards all feature XFP optical modules for 10Gbit interfaces. The FTOS OS can manage up to 1,500 ports in a system.

Each TeraScale RPM card is priced at $30,000. A four-port 10GbE line card for either the E600 or E1200 costs $48,000, while a 48-port Gigabit Ethernet line card for the same models costs $47,500. A 48-port module that supports 10Mb, 100Mb or 1Gb ports costs $37,500. For the E300 switch, a two-port, 10Gb line card costs $27,500, while a 24-port Gigabit Ethernet module costs $30,000.

A typical configuration of chassis with four 10Gb uplinks and 270 nodes, all operating at line rates, is $380,000.

- Loring Wirbel

EE Times

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