Guidance on Buying a Data Center Switch

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Given the unprecedented development of network technology, switches have been widely used in some large-scale LANs and switch products are becoming increasingly rich. Thousands of enterprises like FS, Cisco, HP and Huawei provide varying level of switch products, such as Ethernet switch and fiber optic switch, to satisfy different demands. Customers may be dazzled and have no idea what to do with so many products. Therefore choosing the right switch for your data center can be a difficult task. This article introduces some basic information of data center switch and offers some references and suggestions on how to pick a good switch for you.

What Are Data Center Switches?

Network switches fall into four basic categories: core switches, distribution switches, access switches and data center switches, of which the first three fit into the classic three-tier enterprise network model while the last one is newer and currently used mainly by large enterprises and cloud providers that rely heavily on virtualization.

As for the type of optical switches, the most important feature of a fiber optic switch is that it adopts fiber optic cables as its transmission medium with the advantages of fast speed and strong anti-interference capability. Different types of switches have unique characteristics that, when used properly, better optimize the network as a whole. Over time, with developments in storage area networks (SANs) and the continued growth of virtualization , changes in data-center server architecture ushered in a new breed of high-performance switches—data center switches. The features of data center switch can be classified as follow:

  • Data center switches provide the physical port capacity and port throughput required to handle both north-south and east-west traffic flows.
  • Data center switches allow for connectivity using both standard LAN Ethernet protocol and SAN protocols, such as Fiber Channel over Ethernet and legacy Fiber Channel.
  • Data center switches have more extensive high availability and fault tolerance systems built into the hardware and software for better uptime for mission-critical applications.
  • Data center switches provide significantly higher deployment flexibility with both top-of-rack and end-of-row configuration compatibility.
  • Finally, all components of a distributed data center switch can be managed from a single management interface for ease of use.
How to Pick the Right Switch for You?

Before deciding what type of switch you should buy, you need to weigh a variety of factors, from routing requirements and port speeds to manufacturer support. Careful planning before making a switch purchase will save you money by ensuring you don’t wind up buying equipment that has functionality your organization doesn’t need. At the same time, it can exempt you from future worries by making sure you aren’t left with switches that can’t expand their capabilities as your requirements change and grow. Here are some points you can consider to help guide your switch purchase.

a) 100G Options
  • Range of switch form factors with 100G ports
  • Maximum number of 100G ports per rack unit
b) Sub-Microsecond Options
  • Range of switch form factors with sub-microsecond throughput
  • Maximum number of 100G ports per rack unit
c) Cloud, SDN and Virtualization Readiness
  • Support for OpenFlow (the higher the version, the better)
  • Certification of compliance with the highest version for which a testing suite is defined (typically several versions behind the current)
  • Vendor OF controller, and/or third-party and/or open source OF controllers certified with its hardware
  • OpenStack plugin
  • Physical switch support for VXLAN and/or NVGRE
d) Platform Unity, Manageability, Maintainability
  • Single operating system for all data center switches
  • Single management tool addressing whole DC switching portfolio and all features
  • Support for in-service software upgrades, so switches don’t have to be shut down  for upgrades

Once you have gone through these key points, you should be ready to do some switch shopping. Next I will introduce some top switches in the market for your reference.

Top Switches Product Overview
Type
Description
FS S5850-48S6Q data center switch

1. 48 SFP+ ports and 6 QSFP+ ports which provide 720Gbps non-blocking bandwidth and 1072Mpps L2/L3 throughput

2. Designed for traffic visibility and trouble shooting

3. Support VxLAN/NvGRE, including Routing

4. Support ECN and PFC, etc

5. Support up to 64 ways ECMP

6. Support Openflow image and NPB (TAP) image

7. Compatible with Cisco, Juniper, Arista switches, as well as other brands of switches

FS S5850-48S2Q4C data center switch
1. 48 SFP+ ports, 2 QSFP+ ports and 4 QSFP28 ports which provide 960Gbps non-blocking bandwidth and 1200Mpps L2/L3 throughput

2. Designed for traffic visibility and trouble shooting

3. Support VxLAN/NvGRE, including Routing

4. Support ECN and PFC, etc

5. Support up to 64 ways ECMP

6. Support Openflow image and NPB (TAP) image

7. Compatible with Cisco, Juniper, Arista switches, as well as other brands of switches

FS S5850-32S2Q data center switch

1. 32 SFP+ ports and 2 QSFP+ ports which provide 400Gbps non-blocking bandwidth and 596Mpps L2/L3 throughput

2. Designed for traffic visibility and trouble shooting

3. Support VxLAN/NvGRE, including Routing

4. Support ECN and PFC, etc

5. Support up to 64 ways ECMP

6. Support Openflow image and NPB (TAP) image

7. Compatible with Cisco, Juniper, Arista switches, as well as other brands of switches

Conclusion

A good data center switch can provide enterprise organizations with significant advantages in performance, availability and ease of management. I hope this article can help you find a suitable data center switch for your organization.

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