Virtualization Technology News and Information
Dell Networking Delivers New SDN-Enabled Fabric Solutions, Innovative Convergence Platform to Help Accelerate Data Center Transformation

Dell today announced new additions to its networking portfolio to help customers accelerate transitions to high-performance converged, virtualized and private cloud environments. These include Dell’s new Active Fabric solutions for SDN-enabled designs along with next-generation management software – Dell Active Fabric Manager – and the Dell Networking S5000 modular LAN/SAN switching platform.

Dell Networking: Accelerating Data Center Transformation

Several factors in today’s data centers have operators considering new and different network architectures beyond the traditional three-tier, monolithic systems of the past. Factors include: Virtualization and new workloads changing the network traffic patterns and demands; Software-defined networking (SDN) and the promise of network programmability; convergence of formerly distinct technology silos; and input/output consolidation with migration to 10GbE server platforms. These dynamics present CIOs not just architectural challenges but also budgetary and operational considerations.

Industry analysts at Gartner cite these transformative aspects in its inaugural Magic Quadrant for Data Center Network Infrastructure. “The data center network market has been transformed with new architectures, new technologies and vendors specifically targeting solutions to address the changing size and density of the data center, shifts in traffic patterns, and the increasing requirement to simplify network operations.”

Dell Active Fabric – New Data Centers Need New Network Architectures

Dell Active Fabric describes its approach to providing customers a modern network architecture that takes advantage of today’s technology and provides an easily-scalable path for future growth.

Dell Active Fabric provides a flat, fast, any-to-any multipath network architecture that is flexible and ideally suited for the growing amount of East-West traffic in today’s virtualized data centers and private clouds. Active Fabric solutions flatten the traditional data center network architecture using high-density and low-latency, fixed-form factor 10/40GbE switches that can be deployed quickly and easily while reaching to hyperscale proportions.

According to Gartner’s Rightsizing the Enterprise Data Center Network report, “Newer small form factor core devices can enable network managers to reduce capital costs by 30 percent to 70 percent, and save 30 percent or more on operations expenses, compared with chassis-based switches.”

In line with this, compared to traditional chassis-based network designs, Dell Active Fabric solutions provide up to 59 percent cost savings and consume up to 77 percent less power.

SDN is a logical extension to the enhanced network flexibility Dell Active Fabric solutions provide. The software abstraction layer that SDN delivers is designed to enable open programmability, making infrastructure flexible and adaptable to different customer environments. Additionally, Dell is one of the only vendors to offer a complete and unbiased approach to SDN encompassing networking virtualization overlays (NVO), OpenFlow and legacy interface capabilities.

  • Dell Active Fabric supports NVOs using the leading hypervisors from Microsoft, VMware and OpenStack.
  • Dell Active Fabric supports Open Flow-based controllers from leading vendors including Big Switch Networks.
  • Dell Active Fabric also supports legacy programmatic interfaces including Telnet/CLI, TCL, REST, SNMP, Perl and Python scripting

Defining features of Dell Active Fabric include:

  • Purpose-built for virtualized, converged, and SDN environments
  • High-performance 10GbE & 40GbE L2/L3 multipath fabrics
  • LAN/SAN convergence using Data Center Bridging (iSCSI, Fibre Channel (FC) and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)
  • OpenFlow support
  • Standard northbound and southbound interfaces

Dell Active Fabric Manager – Industry-Leading Fabric Automation Software

The Dell Active Fabric Manager is an industry-innovating software tool that automates the tasks associated with planning, designing, building and monitoring fabrics. Dell Active Fabric Manager can reduce deployment time up to 86 percent compared to a completely manual process.

Dell Active Fabric Manager features include:

  • Design wizard – Greatly simplifies the mapping process using an intuitive graphical interface, performing all the necessary calculations to present the optimal fabric design, eliminating guesswork and errors.
  • Automated provisioning, validation and configuration - Provides a step-by-step approach to translate a fabric design to a completely functional deployment and eliminates numerous command line interface entries, a time-consuming and error-prone process.
  • Easy integration, role-based access –Dell Active Fabric Manager abstracts the fabric as a single entity, not at the device level, allowing other tools in the data center to integrate easily. Coupled with this, role-based access allows multiple departments (e.g. server and storage administrators) to monitor different aspects of fabric performance without disrupting the underlying network operations.

Dell Networking S5000 – Slim, Modular Unified Storage Switch

The Dell Networking S5000 is Dell’s first 1U 10/40GbE top-of-rack LAN/SAN switch equipped with native FC and FCoE capabilities. The S5000’s innovative system design is powered by an industry-hardened, and feature-rich operating system for maximum dependability and uptime. Dell Open Automation framework provides integrated automation, scripting and programmable management for enhanced network flexibility in virtualized environments.

Key features include:

  • Pay-as-you grow modularity, designed to scale – provides for improved deployment flexibility and IT budget allocation compared to fixed-port switches. The S5000 accommodates four modules allowing customers to populate a single module and add as necessary instead of buying all four modules at once.
  • High-density LAN/SAN convergence – saves on the number of switches and rack space required, the S5000 has up to 1.3 to 2.6 times the port density per rack unit compared to industry alternatives. The S5000 has a maximum of 64 x 10GbE ports, or 48 x Ethernet/FC ports with 16 x 10GbE ports.
  • Feature-rich storage networking – complete support for iSCSI, RoCE, NAS, FCoE and FC fabric services, all on the same platform.
  • Future-ready design for maximum investment protection – with the modularity and system design, the S5000 hardware is future-ready to support newer features and options when released without needing to sacrifice existing infrastructure investment.
  • Easy integration, established interoperability with leading adapter, switch and storage vendors including Broadcom, Brocade, Emulex, Intel and Qlogic.


‘We’re challenging conventional wisdom with new products and solutions designed to accelerate our customers’ migration to virtualized and cloud data center environments.” said Tom Burns, vice president and general manager, Dell Networking. “We’re excited about these new offerings and their ability to simplify operations, boost performance and improve economics.”

“Because we have a flexible and efficient network configuration that is automated, this allows an up to 50 percent decrease in maintenance and network troubleshooting,” said Qu Jing, project implementation manager, “The Active Fabric architecture effectively eliminates network bottlenecks to achieve one-to-one instant network convergence.”

“Dell Active Fabric networking technology is leading edge, providing 40G connectivity to our storage fabric, and 10G switching for east/west traffic,” said Kevin Dunn, vice president for Business Information Services – Infrastructure and Operations at First Command Financial Services. “It gives us the ability to move workloads across our Dell infrastructure quickly and easily, maximizing our hardware utilization and increasing the value of our investments.”

“Dell’s Active Fabric Manager is a valuable asset for MCA in all stages of our customer engagement,” said James Bender, Director of Technical Services at channel partner Mike Collins Associates. “I am extremely impressed with the intuitive workflows for designing, deploying and monitoring in a single management pane, and greatly simplifying the sales process.”

“Being a university, we’re evaluating the S5000 because we have diverse range of storage systems and appreciate the protocol flexibility,” said Yaohui Jin, Prof., Deputy Director, Network & Information Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University ON. “This platform will allow us to standardize on a single networking infrastructure instead of having to buy and deploy different switches for each. We expect this will help us simplify our operations as well as reduce our capital expenditures.”

“We’re interested in the S5000 as its first switch we’ve seen with these capabilities in a 1U top-of-the-rack form factor. This is very important for our Datacenter network configuration,” said Maurizio Davini, CTO , IT Center, University of Pisa Italy. “We also like the modular aspect so we can scale as we need, while saving CapEx and OpEx in the meantime.”

“Networking professionals need solutions that solve real business problems today, and SDN, while very promising, is still very nascent,” said Bob Laliberte, Senior Analyst of IT Infrastructure and Networking at Enterprise Strategy Group. “Dell Networking is expanding its product line to introduce offerings into the market that tackle today’s immediate needs while enabling organizations to take advantage of future developments.”


Dell 10G and 40G Active Fabric solutions are available worldwide now from Dell and its global PartnerDirect channel partners. Active Fabric Manager v1.5 will be available globally in late May 2013. Dell Networking S5000 will be available globally in July 2013.

Published Monday, April 15, 2013 6:29 PM by David Marshall
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