Enterprise networks, data centers and cloud deployments are becoming increasingly complex, crowded and difficult to manage due to changing business demands arising from new workload deployments and users’ need for anytime, anywhere, any device computing and productivity requirements. Network traffic within data centers is shifting from traditional north-south (vertical) to east-west (horizontal) paths as high-performance workloads and virtualization technology requires more communication and coordination between server and storage platforms. With the data center network now operating as a mission-critical superhighway infrastructure that ties together and regulates all of this traffic, early adopter enterprise organizations have been anxiously awaiting the maturation of SDN-based network offerings with open architectures to help simplify this complex environment.

 As an early innovator in both the PC and server industries, Dell recognized the need for an open ecosystem in which customers could choose among various industry-standard networking gear, network applications and network operating systems to meet their business needs. As discussed in Arpit’s blog back in February “The Future is Now: Time to Disrupt the Networking Industry”, Dell led the way with development and delivery of innovative networking solutions like smaller, fixed-form factor switches, and server-like programming to the network with scripting and other commonly used tools with our Active Fabric Manager.

With the increasing need for real-time handling and transport of large amounts of data across the network, we saw a shift occurring: organizations wanted to implement a centrally controlled, virtualized network infrastructure that could remap network resources like IP addresses, ports and virtualized LANs on the fly. To help these organizations prepare for the future we decoupled the control plane and data plane elements within all of our data center fabric switches by making them OpenFlow-enabled right out of the box. We implemented this functionality in a hybrid approach so customers could choose which SDN technology best met their needs – programmable, OpenFlow or NVO.

Earlier this year Dell announced our next step in our Open Networking vision, “A New Era for Open Networking with Dell and Cumulus Networks”, by becoming the first global end-to-end technology company to provide customers the ability to decouple the data plane software from the physical switch. This solution gave customers an open ecosystem where they could choose from best of breed industry-standard networking switches, network applications and network operating systems. Unlike other “white box” or “bare-metal” switch offerings on the market, Dell and our 3rd party OS partners offer a fully integrated, tested and globally supported solution.

We continue our momentum with our second Open Networking partnership with Big Switch Networks to provide a joint SDN-based network monitoring solution.

 This solution provides customers the ability to combine Dell switches with Big Switch Networks Switch Light™ OS and Big Tap™ monitoring fabric application and Dell’s global services and support. As with the Cumulus offering, this solution is fully integrated, tested and most importantly includes Dell’s global supply chain, support and consulting services.

These premium-level solutions from Dell help open a new era for open networking by offering customers:

  • Choice of industry-standard, market-proven, high-performance Ethernet switches from Dell
  • Choice to mix-and-match data plane OS software from various vendors to meet their unique requirements
  • Choice of a broad system of open-standard network and management applications
  • Peace of mind with Dell’s global, end-to-end support and services including:
    • Complete data center solution with common acquisition, deployment and operational model from single vendor for server, storage and networking – global distribution and fulfillment;
    • Global services with a single point of contact and accountability; and,
    • Networking expertise in pre- and post-sales scenarios including planning, deployment and support services

As organizations continue to rely on their data center networking infrastructure to handle increasing workloads and applications, the promise of centrally controlled SDN technology to help simplify the growing complexity is near. The transition towards SDN in the data center represents the most transformative architectural trend delivering unmatched network agility, choice and optimized network operations for customers.  Dell is leading the charge with our open networking vision that offers customers the choice of industry-leading switches, 3rd party OS partnerships and global service and support. Our key differentiator is the transformation of the entire value chain from networking solutions acquisition, deployment, management, growth and global support with our totally disaggregated networking architectures and switches.