Short take: Dell S6000 SDN switch

The humble switch is more important in today's world than you might think...

Dell's Dominique Vanhamme showed me a slide, in the course of introducing the new S6000 series PowerConnect switches, which claims an advantage to adopting this software defined networking (SDN) device in a data centre with "1,536 10GbE connections".

This will give you, as a hardened networking specialist, a sense of the scale at which Dell's new collaboration with VMware is operating. The S6000 is a 1U device. Its front panel is crammed with 10 or 40GbE connections and it very much fits physically and philosophically into the current vogue for designing data centres one rack at a time. That is, each rack has a switch in it, rather than a giant full-rack switch backbone device being the spider at the centre of an unmanageably vast web of physical cables strung over, under, around and behind the actual computers. 

So I immediately started thinking: 1,536 - that's a funny number. If you assume that each S6000 can take 24 connections, it's 64 switches. I know, that's a very crude assumption, but, on the other hand, if there was an overwhelming advantage to both SDN and 10GbE as emerging standards, it is that they make the business of building and running data centres helpfully crude.

When you consider that each 10GbE connection probably has 20 separate VMs on the end of it (and it's not by any means maxed out by that population) then it could well turn the spiders web of Gbit interlinks suddenly into a nice disciplined 23 cables per rack (serving nearly 500 VMs) plus one to make a backbone crosslink: Just the interval between wrong cables being unplugged would justify this purchase in a high-risk, high-value corporate data centre. 

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