Data center-class switches: A buyer's guide
A collection of articles that takes you from defining technology needs to purchasing options
Editor's note: The Dell C9000 series replaces the switches described in this article. For the most updated information, read our overview of the Dell C9010 data center-class switch.
The Dell E1200i is a large-scale switch targeting extreme high-end users; the E600i is a more medium-scale switch targeting general enterprise users. The switches, acquired as part of Dell's purchase of Force10 Networks in 2011, come in two configurations: "TeraScale" and "ExaScale," reflecting the devices' maximum switching capacity. Both are Layer 2 and Layer 3 non-blocking-compliant and have additional features like the Dell Force10 Operating System firmware, hot-swappable hardware, OpenFlow compliance and more.
Dell E1200i switch
The Dell E1200i switch has 14 line card slots. The ExaScale configuration supports up to 1260 10/100/1000 Base-T ports, all of which are line rate; 560 10 GbE ports, 140 of which are line-rate; or 700 1 GbE ports, all of which are line-rate. It has a maximum switching capacity of 3.5 terabits per second (Tbps).
The TeraScale configuration supports up to 1260 10/100/1000 Base-T ports, of which 672 are line-rate; 672 1 GbE ports; or 224 10 GbE ports, 56 of which are line-rate. This switch has a maximum switching capacity of 1.6875 Tbps.
Both E1200i configurations have a maximum forwarding capacity of 2.083 billion packets per second (Bpps) and up to 100 Gbps per slot of usable bandwidth, although the raw bandwidth is around 125 Gbps per slot. Neither version currently supports 100 GbE or Power over Ethernet, although Dell plans to offer future support for 100 GbE ports.
The E1200i supports nine fabric switch modules, which allows administrators to manage fabric-based networks using Dell's Virtualized Network Fabric Framework technology.
The E1200i switch is 24 rack units (RU) tall.
Dell E600i switch
At seven line cards, the Dell E600i switch offers roughly half the capability of the E1200i. The ExaScale version supports up to 630 10/10/1000 Base-T ports, all of which are line-rate; 280 10 GbE ports, 70 of which are line rate; or 350 1 GbE ports, all of which are line rate. It has a maximum switching capacity of 1.75 Tbps.
The TeraScale version supports 630 10/10/1000 Base-T ports, 336 of which are line rate; 112 10 GbE ports, 28 of which are line-rate; or 336 1 GbE ports, all of which are line rate. It has up to 900 Gbps of raw switching capacity.
Both versions of the E600i deliver 100 Gbps of usable bandwidth per slot and 125 Gbps of raw bandwidth, as well as 1,042 Bpps of forwarding capacity. Like the E1200i, the E600i does not support 100 GbE or Power over Ethernet. The switch supports up to five fabric switch modules and stands 16 RU tall.
Additional features in the E1200i and E600i switches include Dell's Force10 Operating System software, which is a modular Unix-based operating system, and support for hot-swappable hardware. Both switches are OpenFlow-compliant, so they can support a software-defined networking environment.
Dell's Virtualized Network Fabric Framework suite includes VirtualView, a suite of monitoring and provisioning features; VirtualScale, which consolidates physical networks; and Virtual Control, which manages multiple switching and routing domains on one physical platform.
Pricing and support
Pricing for the switches depends on configuration. A standard switch bundle would cost up to $100,000, depending on line cards selected by the customer. The E1200i ExaScale chassis costs about $82,000 and the E600i ExaScale costs about $60,000.
Dell provides online support and maintains a general telephone support line.