Extreme Touts Simpler Enterprise Network With Aspen Switches

With the launch of its new Aspen 8800 Series switches, Extreme is espousing a simplified two-tier network architecture that cuts out the middle distribution/aggregation layer commonly found in enterprise networks.

>> The Aspen switches support new architecture that cuts out distribution/aggregation layer.

The vendor's new lineup includes high-density chassis switches for use at the network edge, where they would connect directly to client devices such as PCs, wireless access points and IP phones and replace the typical myriad of "pizza-box" fixed configuration switches used in most networks, said Varun Nagaraj, vice president of product management at Extreme, Santa Clara, Calif.

"Where you used to have 300 to 400 elements within a network, [now you can have] 15 to 20 different elements," Nagaraj said.

As a result, customers' networks can be significantly simplified, making them easier to secure and manage, he said.

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"For resellers, it provides the opportunity to do network assessments and audits to see if they can simplify a customer's network architecture now that these more powerful building blocks are available," Nagaraj said.

Available with a six-slot or 10-slot chassis, the Aspen line includes integrated security features and supports four modules: 24-port Gigabit Ethernet, 48-port Gigabit, 48-port Gigabit with Power over Ethernet (PoE) and four-port 10 Gigabit.

The Aspen switches are Extreme's second product line to use its ExtremeWare XOS modular operating system, which debuted with its BlackDiamond 10K core switches in December 2003.

The Unix-based operating system, which allows individual processes to be restarted without rebooting the entire switch, is a huge differentiator between the Aspen line and competitive products from vendors such as Cisco Systems because of the uptime it provides, said Chris Sullivan, owner of Turn2 Solutions, an Extreme partner in Los Altos, Calif.

Joshua Johnson, a Synergy Research Group senior analyst, said, "If you're working in a VoIP environment, you don't want to have to reboot the switch because who knows who's talking."

Nagaraj concedes that a two-tier architecture won't work for all clients, so some customers will likely tap into the Aspen line's PoE features by using them as aggregation switches, he said.

The Aspen 8800 Series is available now. Pricing for Gigabit with PoE starts at $350 per port and $3,500 per port for 10 Gigabit.