Enterasys bulks up backbone switch

The X-Pedition ER16 switch can handle a variety of switching duties and will become Enterasys' strategic offering for the core of corporate networks. While the box gives network professionals a large number of gigabit ports for connecting servers and wiring closet switches, it also combines advanced WAN connectivity features with hardware-based security and quality of service (QoS) in one chassis.

Residing in the core of a LAN, the X-Pedition can also be used to load balance VPN and security appliances, or to sit on a network's edge and connect sites in a metropolitan-area network via traditional or optical WAN connections.

The box will help Enterasys -- one of the four companies split off from Cabletron almost a year ago -- compete with Foundry Networks' BigIron, Extreme Networks' BlackDiamond and Nortel Networks' Passport 8600 offerings. The 16-slot, chassis-based switch is aimed at replacing the X-Pedition 8600, formerly Cabletron's SmartSwitch Router 8600.

Enterasys touts gigabit scalability as the device's strongest point, with a backplane that can handle 128G bit/sec. Chassis slots can be filled with up to 128 Gigabit Ethernet ports or 460 10/100M bit/sec ports.

Support for more gigabit ports is key for Mike Cramner, assistant vice president of technical operations for ING Variable Annuities in Westchester, Pa. Cramner's firm, which sells retirement financing services, is replacing a SmartSwitch Router 8600 in its network core and will use the new X-Pedition to supply the firm's 20 servers and its wiring closets with redundant Gigabit Ethernet links.

"The [SmartSwitch 8600] was a fantastic product, but its real limitation is its [gigabit] port density," Cramner says. "Our business has grown dramatically over last year, and we needed to move to Gigabit Ethernet on our servers. What the ER16 gives us is the ability to completely upgrade our network to gigabit."

While his network has some gigabit links, Cramner says, "as soon as you get to the servers, it went back down to 100M bit/ sec. Now we'll have pure gigabit once the packet hits the wiring closet all the way to the server."

In addition to supporting up to 1.6 million media access control addresses, the X-Pedition can also handle 4,096 virtual LANs. Cramner says he will use VLANs extensively to segment the varying traffic on his network, such as SNA communications, IP-based Internet traffic and an IPX-based segment with Novell NetWare servers.

The X-Pedition ER16 includes hardware-based security features, including wire-speed packet filtering and access control list processing. These features let the switch filter packets from recognizable denial- of-service attack patterns, such as "Smurf" attacks and "Ping of Death" to protect Web servers.

All ports support Layer 4 switching, allowing the device to handle up to four million Layer 4 application flows. The ability to conduct wire-speed inspection of packets at Layer 4 lets users implement QoS and traffic shaping policies that don't impede on network performance, the company says.

"Hardware-based QoS lets [IS staff] manage their appplications and users on a very granular level, not only with bandwidth shaping, but also prioritization of traffic under policy-based routing," says Jeff Lukowsky, marketing manager for the X-Pedition product line.

In addition to having the traffic shaping and management features required for the enterprise core, the X-Pedition will also feature an array of next-generation WAN modules, such as dense wave division multiplexing, 10G Ethernet and packet-over-SONET, which will set it apart from some competing switches from Cisco, Extreme and Foundry, Lukowsky says.

"Instead of just having traditional T-1 and T-3 WAN connections, this device is designed to handle many of the new on-ramp WAN technologies that are starting to surface," he says.

Supporting 10G Ethernet could be key because according to market research firm IDC, about 640,000 10G bit/sec ports will be shipped this year and the installed base for the technology will jump to 6.9 million ports by 2004.

The X-Pedition ER16 is available now and starts at $22,000 for the base chassis. Twenty-four- and 32-port and 10/100 Base-T modules are available, as well as four- and eight-port gigabit modules. A 1000Base-T module, as well as T-1, T-3, ATM and FDDI modules will be available in the first half of this year, with packet-over-SONET and 10G Ethernet WAN modules coming in the second half of 2001.

This story, "Enterasys bulks up backbone switch" was originally published by Network World.

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