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Terabit Switch on a Chip

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Terabit Switch on a Chip

Terabit Switch on a Chip

Networking gear is trending away from custom ASICs to merchant silicon, and the newest generation of these switching chips has crossed the terabit per second threshold. A single chip can now switch 64 full-duplex 10 Gbps wire-speed flows without blocking, for a total of 1.28 Tbps, or just under one billion packets per second.  Switch latency is around one microsecond for both Layer-2 and Layer-3 forwarding, and the latency is consistent between any pair of ports because they are all driven off the same chip.

Vendors are now delivering this technology in top-of-rack (ToR) switches positioned for high-performance computing (HPC) clusters. One example is the new Force10 S4810 ToR switch which supports 48 dual-speed 1/10 GbE SFP+ and four 40 GbE QSFP+ ports in a 1 RU “pizza box” footprint. IBM and Cisco have similar offerings based on the same Broadcom Trident chip, but you must wait a while to get your hands on the Nexus 3064 from Cisco (unless you already have a substantial order booked).

Compare this to a legacy architecture Cisco 6509-V-E chassis that delivers similar throughput using 21 RU—that’s half a rack, with an order of magnitude greater power and cooling load. The single-chip solutions only draw a few hundred watts, so special power outlets are not needed. Standard equipment includes redundant hot-swappable power supplies and fans, with front/back airflow compatible with hot/cold aisle data centers.

The SFP+ and QSFP+ ports support Direct Attach cables without media conversion for ultra low latency on short reach connections. They also accept a range of pluggable optics suitable for metro optical networks, or directly driving wavelength division multiplex systems. Dual speed SFP+ slots support any mix of 1/10 GbE on copper or fiber, with a simple plug-and-play upgrade path.

Expect the economies of scale of ubiquitous Ethernet and PCI bus to squeeze InfiniBand (IB) out of its niche in HPC, the same way switched Ethernet crowded out ATM. Direct Attach provides switched connections between multiple devices, and PCIe handles point-to-point connections. We don’t see sustained interest in IB for high-frequency trading, where it should wash out relatively quickly because refresh cycles there are measured in months, not years.

Chassis-based Ethernet switches with pluggable cards will continue to be displaced by these fixed-port, modular interface boxes based off reference designs from the silicon merchants. This transition, limited only by Moore’s Law and the ability to productize apace, is likewise analogous to the move HPC made off custom supercomputer chassis to arrays of commodity PCs. Initial capital cost and ongoing power and space expense are lowered by dumping switch fabric backplanes for single-board designs.

Once basic switch functionality becomes commoditized by merchant silicon, vendors will have to differentiate their offerings with features, services, and relationships. That should be a positive development for everyone in the networking space.

Doug Haluza, C.T.O. Metro|NS



Friends, Customers, Colleagues: Welcome

Friends, Customers, Colleagues:  Welcome

Our team is excited to launch our website and officially present Metro|NS to the telco community. As many of you know, it’s been a busy and fantastic few months. After the sale of Lexent, our team regrouped (took some time to unwind) and came back refreshed and ready to tackle our next project, Metro Network Services!! We’ve spent the past four months strengthening our relationships with local service providers and equipment vendors, as well as researching the newest technologies impacting optical and wireless transport. After our initial R&D phase, we, as a team, are confident and ready to bring these solutions to market with you.

I hope you’ll spend some time today familiarizing yourself with our new site. As a project management and integration firm, we’ve organized our site to help our clients and prospective customers drill down to specific services we offer, as well as highlight some past solutions we’ve done to give an idea of our breadth and scope of work. You’ll also be able to find relevant and up-to-date blog posts here. Check back periodically for write ups from our experts on what we’re seeing in the field. We hope this blog serves as a conversation point for all of you, and we look forward to reading and responding to your comments.

Finally, on behalf of the team here, I’d like to thank you all for your continued support of Metro|NS. So many of you have been with us from Hugh O’Kane Electric through Lexent and now Metro|NS, and we are excited about the opportunity to continue working together. We’re looking forward to the future and energized by the prospect of helping you improve your network and grow your business!


Looking forward to speaking with you soon.

Victoria O’Kane,

Co-Founder and Vice President Operations Metro|NS




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