Dell EMC Switches Take Aim At Cisco With New VMware Focus


Dell EMC launched a new family of 25-GbE switches on Tuesday that provide the ideal network underlay for VMware NSX and software-defined storage implementations with sights on taking share from Cisco through Dell’s open networking approach.

"There's a big tug-of-war between those who want to lean heavily into NSX versus those that might be taking more of a Cisco approach and investing in what's embedded in the network," said Jeff Baher, director of product and technical marketing for Dell EMC's networking and service provider solutions, in an interview with CRN. "There's a big performance upgrade with the move away from the standard 10-GbE. That's when people start to consider, 'Should I go down an open networking path where I have the option to run different flavors of software on those switches? Or do I want to double down and have that be locked down with a specific flavor of software from a specific vendor?' … We're helping our customers here deploy a more robust and cost-effective VMware software-defined data center."

Cisco did not respond for comment by press time.

Dell EMC's new S5200 top-of-rack open networking switches aim to help customers meet the growing demands of in-rack and storage network traffic with features such as advanced buffering, higher forwarding tables and data plane support for VxLAN routing.

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The key factor included in the S52000 leaf series is Dell EMC's flagship open-source 10 Enterprise Edition networking operating system. The OS10 Enterprise Edition is designed to allow multi-layer disaggregation of the network functionality. The OS combines Linux and open computing to advance open network disaggregation by supporting multiple architectures and environments.

"We have customers asking for [OS 10 Enterprise Edition] because they don’t want to get locked into proprietary systems," said Michael Murphy, president of Nanuet, N.Y.-based solution provider and VMware partner VirtuIT Systems. "It gives them a lot of flexibility and more options with no single vendor lock-in."

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Murphy said it's a competitive advantage for Dell EMC’s networking portfolio against Cisco to have switches tailor-made for VMware environments.

"One of the biggest challenges that we see is Cisco politics. When we're going into large shops with something like VxRail, when it comes to the networking part on why they should consider Dell open networking, it doesn't matter to customers if they're a Cisco shop. We hit a roadblock," said Murphy. "The tighter integration with VMware and NSX and VMware software-defined data centers should help that."

Dan McCormick, executive vice president of Davenport Group, a St. Paul, Minn.-based Dell EMC partner and 2018 CRN Triple Crown winner, said customers are starting to take a closer look at Dell EMC's open networking strategy because they don't want to be constraint by network hardware.

"The approach both Dell EMC and VMware have taken around networking that has been more about integrating within the entire virtualization software stack without feeling like you have to be constrained within a particular ecosystem or that you're penalized if you go outside of the ecosystem," said. "For most customers, these 25-GbE top of rack switches are going to be their sweet spot and they can step into it knowing that they have flexibility going forward versus feeling like they're trapped within a limited ecosystem which might be the approach some competitors are putting forward."

The S5200 switches accelerate software-defined data centers with robust underlay for VMware NSX and target customers who have invested in VMware's Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) architecture, according to Dell EMC's Baher.

"There's a big economic driver as well to simplify and lower the cost structure of the physical underlay as people are looking to invest more in their virtual networking and the NSX capabilities," he said.

VMware NSX has been reinvented in 2018 and is spreading across the company's entire portfolio. Various NSX-based network and security solutions were pushed into the public cloud this year along with new products such as NSX Cloud, which provides consistent networking and security for applications running in both private VMware-based data centers and natively in public clouds.

In a recent keynote presentation at the 2018 Best of Breed (BoB) Conference, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said he wants to disrupt the security industry leading with NSX.

"I want to disrupt everything about the security industry. It's all screwed up," said Gelsinger. "I think security [vendors have] failed our customers in the past. … The No. 1 use case for NSX is security, and I expect that's going to [continue.]"

Additionally, Dell EMC's new S5200 family helps form high-performance 100-GbE data center fabrics for traffic between racks.

"People are increasing their speeds, moving to 25-Gig or 100-Gig, but they're trying to flatten out these architectures as well to get faster performance across the racks for a lot of these applications," said Dell EMC's Baher. "There's a significant opportunity for our partners to help customers of various sizes figure out what is the appropriate strategy as they re-architect their data centers."