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New 90-port line cards stack GigE density

Force10 is burying the needle on the GigE density meter with its new 90-port line cards; an expert says it could be good news for businesses seeking affordable network efficiency.

"Over-subscription" may be the new buzzword in the networking world, at least as it translates to network scalability and cost efficiency.

Today, Force10 Networks Inc. unveils its new 90-port Gigabit Ethernet line cards made to over-subscribe, or increase density, for its TeraScale E-Series family of switches and routers.

Force10 designed the modular architecture of its TeraScale E-Series to accommodate these new line cards. With 90-port cards inserted in each of the E-Series' 14 slots, it provides 1,260 GigE ports per chassis.

The architecture is over-subscribed because not all ports need 100% bandwidth, so it takes advantage of that to make better use of the available real estate. Essentially, it trades bandwidth for slot efficiency.

According to Andrew Feldman, vice president of marketing at Force10, the 90-port line card in combination with the 14-slot capacity also provides a business with investment protection.

"IT managers are now able to cost-effectively build a high level of scalability into their networks," Feldman said. "With the Force10 design, you process more traffic per input slot while conserving space for future use."

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The 90-port line cards are available now for $55,000 a piece.

Steven Schuchart, senior analyst for enterprise infrastructure with Sterling, Va.-based research firm Current Analysis Inc., said over-subscription is common, but a 90-port line card is not.

"That brings them up to an unprecedented amount of density," Schuchart said. "Nobody else makes a chassis that can hold that many GigE ports."

Schuchart said Force10 is ahead of the competition pack in terms of its high density capabilities, but the competitors are hot on its heels. Schuchart said Force10's biggest threats are Cisco System Inc.'s Catalyst 6500, Extreme Networks Inc.'s Black Diamond 10K and Nortel Networks' Ethernet Routing Switch 8600, formally known as the Passport 8600.

Schuchart said one pitfall of having the unprecedented 90 ports per card is that the user must purchase an adapter or adapter cable, which can cost a few hundred dollars, but that cost is trivial in light of the card's cost-efficient price tag.

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