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July 20, 2011

Dell Uses Force to Enhance Integrated Datacenter Portfolio

Nicole Hemsoth

Not long ago, word on the street was that Dell’s move into networking would involve their acquisition of Brocade, but today the official message came that the Round Rock company would put its faith in Force10 Networks for an undisclosed sum.

Force10 networks provides high performance solutions that are driven in large part by the need to deliver new virtualization and cloud-ready networks for the new crop of datacenters feeding the web-based market. The company also has a presence in the HPC market with its gear outfitting 60 percent of the top 10 supercomputers.

The privately-owned networking supplier recently made the claim of having 1,300 customers, a number they say includes many Fortune 100 businesses, a number it hoped would grow as enterprise users began making the leap from 10GbE to 40GbE.

The San Jose-based network provider predominantly focused on North American customers with an estimated 80 percent of sales coming from the continent. Force10 made news with the recent announcement of their 40gbit/s top of rack Ethernet switch and 40Gbit/s line card to accompany its ExaScale core switch. Their profits also come from standard carrier transport-related services and offerings and were expected to increase with their jump into the 40GbE space.

Last spring the company tried to raise $143.8 million for its IPO but as The Register reports, the filed papers revealed that it was not yet a profitable company. Dell, however, is taking a chance on their technology, which to speculate for a moment, might come at a more attractive price than Brocade.

With the addition, Dell stands to gain crucial networking prowess to deliver in its integrated stacks—something that they claim customers are looking for. As it stands, IDC estimates from the first quarter of this year contend that Dell is the number one x86 server vendor in the United States and holds the number two position globally.

In their release today, Dell claimed the $200-million acquisition is attractive, in part, because of its Open Cloud Networking framework, which is based on open standards, automation, virtualization and falls in nicely with Dell’s overall design goals. As the company stated, “Force10’s technology allows customers to transform their network infrastructures into an open, reliable and scalable datacenter and cloud computing fabric.”

Force10’s Open Cloud Networking framework is targeted specifically at cloud and hosting providers as well as enterprise datacenter customers to focus on the flexibility, performance, scalability and automation that is required for cloud datacenters in particular.

According to Dell’s senior VP of the Enterprise Solutions Group at ell, “Today’s datacenter networks are too complex and require too much manual intervention. What worked in the past is no longer viable in the virtual era.” He says his company sees a direct alignment between the flexibility and performance focus on cloud-enabled datacenters as a good fit for Dell’s present offerings.

They claim that aside from Force10’s Open Cloud Networking, they allow flexible, open automation and management, massively scalable core datacenter network that is cost-effective, and automated policy configuration and mobility.

Dell claims they have made significant strides over the last few years to expand their enterprise portfolio and provide customers with a one-stop shopping point for datacenter needs. The Force10 buy will add to their available integrated server, storage, networking and services line to encourage customers to find everything they require at Dell, which will now the Force10 networking technology that has been a good fit for many HPC centers.