Force 10 S4810 Initial Impression

Posted on December 12, 2012

Logo - JPG - Dell_Force10_Dell BlueIn looking around at 10 Gb switch vendors other than Cisco I decided to take a look at Force 10 Networks (now part of Dell) as I had heard about them at an event a while back and it sounded like they merited a look. A few weeks ago I received a demo unit for the S4810 and gave it a whirl. These are initial impressions as I did not run the switch through a full battery of tests, I just wanted to get a feel for the switch, perceived quality, get a look at FTOS, and see how familiar the interface was when compared to the Cisco devices I work with on a regular basis.

After some time with this switch I can say that it is a nice 1/10/40 Gb switch that provides good 10 Gb port density in a 1U form factor. While billed as a ToR (top of rack) switch it has plenty of horse power and features to serve as part of of a network core (you would need at least two redundancy). It can be licensed as a layer 3 switch, it supports FCoE and QoS, it has the hardware to support TRILL and DCB, and it has 4x 40Gb QSFP+ ports which can be used as is or which can each be broken out as 4x 10 Gb SFP+ ports for a total of of 64 ports, in 1U of rack space.  Other features include an advertised 1.28 Tbps of non-blocking, cut-through switching with sub 700 ns latency, ipv4 and ipv6 support, reversible airflow, and hot swappable power supplies.

The device is solid and seems well built, and configuration was very familiar with a syntax very close to what I remember from Extreme Networks and Foundry Newtorks. In fact many of the configuration commands are identical to Cisco IOS commands, and the differences lie in areas such as VLAN configuration (ports are assigned to the VLAN instead of the other way around) and protocol-related configurations (such as spanning-tree). A feature that I have not yet tried but that sounds interesting is VM awareness through the Open Automation Framework. This allows the switch to be configured to communicate with ESX hosts to teach and learn VM-related network information.

Update: After having used the switch for several months I was very pleased with the performance, reliability, and ease of use of this switch. I opted to purchase a number of MXL switches which are essentially this switch in a blade chassis form factor for the Dell M1000e. The performance in a production environment has been excellent, the switches have been extremely reliable, and I have absolutely no complaints.



Posted by Peter

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