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Dell claims it has network virtualization architecture too

Dell this week is throwing its hat into the virtual networking ring with an architecture that initially is long on vision but short on specifics.

Virtual Networking Architecture, according to Dell, is a framework for virtualizing, automating and orchestrating network services in data center, campus and branch environments. VNA is an end-to-end 10G Ethernet blueprint, including 10G top-of-rack and 10G/40G Ethernet distributed core fabrics.

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Based on the various virtualization and automation schemes laid out by Force10 Networks over the past three years -- Dell acquired Force10 six months ago -- VNA is designed to also encompass servers and storage in the virtual network. It's intended to be an end-to-end software-defined network for specific use cases, like multi-tenant data centers, with support for virtual machine mobility, data center orchestration and management.

Yet Dell this week declined to detail the technologies that make up VNA. Many are jumping on the OpenFlow bandwagon for SDNs and network virtualization, but Dell didn't even go that far.

"We're not announcing any of what makes it up," says Arpit Joshipura, chief marketing officer for Dell Networking. "This is a framework, not an SDN announcement. We've done public demos [of OpenFlow on switches] and disclosed directional support for SDNs. This is a first step."

VNA stresses scalable switch fabrics across data centers and campuses, from small, low-power form factors to large, chassis-based core switches. It also proposes virtualized services, such as those supported in the Dell/Force10 FTOS operating system and Open Automation framework, for ease of deployment and provisioning.

VNA also relies on tight integration between Dell's switches, servers and storage systems; and support for mobile clients across data centers, campuses and remote sites, such as WLAN access points, tablet computers and smartphones.

Joshipura said Dell will announce specific components of VNA throughout the year. VNA is expected to compete with fabric and SDN architectures from Cisco, Juniper, HP, Brocade, Arista, Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent, Extreme, Enterasys, and just about any other player in Ethernet switching, network virtualization and SDNs.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.


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