Stack It Up: New Extreme Switch Undercuts Cisco, Juniper

Extreme Networks this week launched a new line of Ethernet switches that offer flexible stacking options and can be deployed in both top-of-rack data center and campus edge aggregation scenarios. The switches, which are the showpiece product launch at this week's Extreme North American channel conference in Torrey Pines, Calif., are set to challenges rival stackable switches from the likes of Cisco and Juniper.

Extreme's new Summit X460 line sits between its 450 and 480 offerings, and comes in six different flavors, with 24 or 48 Gigabit Ethernet copper or fiber ports. The switches support up to 80 Gbps of stacking bandwidth, at a distance of 100 meters. There is support for 30-watt Power over Ethernet Plus (PoE+), and a number of optional features, including dual internal AC/DC redundnacy, a module for dual 10 GbE uplink, policy-based QoS and IPv6 forwarding.

Key to the X460's appeal, according to Extreme, are its stacking options. First off, the 460 supports Extreme's existing dual-port 40 Gbps SummitStack module, which makes it compatible with the X250e, X450a, X480 and X650 models. There are also two new options: SummitStack-V80 a dual-port 80 Gbps QSFP+ module, which offers up to 100 meters of distance, and SummitStack-V a two-port 10G SFP+ module, offering 40 kilometers.

Those options enable the X460 to be deployed top-of-rack in the data center, allowing stacking across racks, or in a campus core, or in the campus edge in a wiring closet. The X460s support IEEE 802.2at PoE+, and offers as high as 30 watts per port for an attached device.

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Next: Pricing And Availability

Extreme is positioning the X460 against Cisco's Catalyst 3750-X and Juniper's EX4200 switches. At a starting price of $4,495, the X460 costs more than the non-stackable Catalyst 3560-X and Juniper X3200 switches, but as a stackable switch, it comes in well below Cisco's 3750-X, at about $5,200, and Juniper's EX4200, at about $6,000.

"We've been aggressive in the pricing of this box," said Darius Goodall, senior product marketing manager for Extreme. "It's order-able without the stacking technology, but we're filling a hole in the market where I believe we can offer best of breed and let IT managers future-proof their networking. Customers are looking to the manageability of their networks that much more, especially with virtualization playing havoc on network demands."

The X460s will be generally available at the end of November.

Vishal Nanda, chief technology officer at Atlanta-based LAN Force Consulting (which was this week acquired by VAR 500 solution provider Carousel Industries), said he was impressed by how Extreme's new line is addressing various market scenarios.

"When you're doing stacking, it's not just about distance, but about the value it carries, and this gives you a lot of flexibility," Nanda said.

Next: More Marketing Assistance, Please

The global bounceback in Ethernet switching -- IDC recently put year-over-year growth for Ethernet switches at 32.7 percent -- means new sales opportunities. Nanda added he continues to see customers who were previously dependent on chassis switches moving more to the stackable model, and who are craving flexibility in the data center investments they make.

That presents an opportunity for Extreme partners, Nanda acknowledged, but what Extreme also needs is stronger marketing for its Ethernet switches and data center products, and better air cover for partners.

"I think every year I come here for the conference, that's something I worry about," Nanda said. "They need to create more awareness, because as far as the switching goes, they've been leading the market in a whole bunch of scenarios."