Extreme Networks Looks Toward the Future of Software-Defined Networking

By Juliana Kenny July 25, 2012

Makers of Ethernet switches face a few challenges today, not the least of which is the grand competition supplied by the communications technology world’s juggernauts including Cisco and Juniper. Yet, a brief meeting with Shehzad Merchant, VP of technology for Extreme Networks, will illuminate that these industry behemoths have not just been met in terms of density, but are being surpassed in terms of performance.

Extreme Networks makes Ethernet switching products, and is in the enterprise, data center and mobile carrier spaces, while now focusing on the mobile backhaul space. The buzz surrounding software-defined networking, or SDN, has brought Extreme into the limelight for its support for OpenFlow, a communications protocol that provides access between the packet switches and the controllers in a network.

With SDN as the hot-button topic in the networking community, and largely discussed at this week’s NetEvents Americas conference in Miami, FL, Extreme finds the opportunity to show how its products achieve higher density than those more well-known in the market. Merchant also shed light on how Extreme supports multiple OpenFlow controllers including BigSwitch and NEC.

He noted that Extreme has its own centralized management application, among other unique features, and has started working with these OpenFlow controller vendors in order to be more fluid as OpenFlow matures. To provide the highest-performing switch, Extreme has been building up solutions to other layers of the network. “As OpenFlow matures, it becomes easy for us to move applications,” said Merchant.

Application developers are able to build SDN applications for various networks including cloud and carrier with OpenFlow enabled across Extreme’s line of Ethernet switches, and with the support of these multiple controllers, developers can choose through whom they want to do their SDN deployment.

Extreme’s BlackDiamond X8 switch contains higher density when compared to Arista, Cisco, Brocade, Juniper and HP. With those big names on the line, the company has to be confident in its product. Merchant revealed that a business would need 18 HP racks to achieve the density of less than one Extreme Networks rack.

With competitive density, low latency, and operating power, Extreme seems to be taking a future-oriented look at the progress of SDN, the proliferation of OpenFlow, while maintaining its modular operating system. The future commercial arrival of SDN lies in its pending market adoption, as Merchant says.

He offered, “This is changing how people think of a network. As with any technology, SDN needs more time in the market, more adoption.” Extreme appears to be ready and waiting for when that time comes.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

TechZone360 Managing Editor

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