Dell: 100GbE for the Open Networking Era

Enterprise and Service Provider data centers are undergoing rapid infrastructure transformations from slow-moving, hierarchical and physical to agile, flat and virtualized.

Higher-speed networking infrastructure is central to this evolution. At the fabric level, where data center racks interconnect, this means an aggressive shift from 40GbE to 100GbE technology and to fixed form-factor products versus clunky, power-hungry, chassis systems. According to industry researchers at Dell’Oro, 100GbE shipments in the data center will grow from 4.6 million ports in 2017 to 19.4 million ports in 2022.

To meet this demand, we’re introducing the Z9264F-ON, doubling 100GbE capacities over our previous Z9100 platform. This allows customers to invest more aggressively in 100GbE with greater port fan-outs. What really sets the Z9264F-ON apart, and what gets me really excited, is the ability for the Z9264F-ON to accelerate Open Networking adoption, meaning the ability to mix-and-match operating system software with networking hardware.

You see, currently the only available systems on the market matching these specs are ‘closed’.  They can only run software that comes from that particular supplier. But increasingly that goes against the grain of what customers are seeking. Customers today are demanding more and more open solutions providing the choice to make independent decisions around networking hardware and software for their particular environments.

Every customer is different. Some customers will prefer hardware and software engineered by the same vendor. For those, we pair the new Z9264F-ON with our fully-featured OS10 Enterprise Edition package. Other customers are looking to run third-party commercial software packages for access to alternative programming models. For these customers we offer combinations of the Z9264F-ON with Big Switch Networks, Cumulus Networks and Pluribus Networks.

Also emerging are models where customers want to construct their own ‘composable’ networking stacks based on either commercial or open source components. Some customers seek open source base elements from which they can then layer commercial routing protocols on top. For these customers, we have our OS10 Open Edition system software, based on the Linux Foundation’s OpenSwitch open source project, and pair it with commercial routing protocol software from Metaswitch.

Others want to go the fully-open source path – procuring hardware from a commercial supplier such as Dell, and adding open source elements to construct a full stack. This could mean running OCP SONiC or Linux Foundation OpenSwitch code natively on the Z9264F-ON.

The bottom line is this, when it comes to 100GbE networking customers want choice.  One size doesn’t fit all with the myriad use cases. While this mixing-and-matching of hardware and software is a big story in and of itself, perhaps the bigger story lies with the people that are making these decisions.

Gone are the days when networking was something that was understood only by the specialized networking department. In fact today, there are number of personas, or data center personnel, with networking know how. The result is that they demand new and different ways to configure and consume networking.

Figure 1. Maximum choice and capability in the data center with Open Networking

Yes, the traditional Networking Admin or Network Engineer still exist. For them, our OS10 Enterprise Edition is a great fit. But for Converged Admins, for example, they’re looking for something a bit less traditional and perhaps with a different front-end to configuring the network. For them, Big Switch has a strong appeal. Others, such as Linux Admins, would prefer to consume networking the same way they consume compute. They would gravitate to solutions from Cumulus Networks. For DevOps organizations, they may opt straightaway for an open source package from OCP or the Linux Foundation as the basis for programming networking infrastructure.

The end result is different software for different personas…or put another way software-defined personas. These are exciting times. The Z9264F-ON is an exciting product. Learn more at

About the Author: Jeff Baher

Jeff is responsible for solutions marketing for Dell’s Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) portfolios reporting into the Enterprise Solutions Group. Jeff has over 20 years of marketing experience in Enterprise IT and Service Provider industries holding positions for Fortune 500, mid-size and startup companies. Prior experience includes Ericsson, Juniper and 10 years at Cisco Systems. Jeff received his bachelor’s degree cum laude from Harvard University and is a frequent spokesperson with press and analyst communities. Areas of expertise: • Data center technologies • Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) • Software-Defined Networking (SDN