Start-up Arastra has launched its first product, as it looks to break into the 10Gbit/s Ethernet sector.

Its first product is actually a line of switches that include a 1 rack unit chassis sporting 48 10Gbit/s ports at $400/port. This is a pretty reasonable price and maybe a sign that datacentres are not just getting greener, but cheaper too.

The Arastra 7100 Series is designed to let users deploy 10Gbit Ethernet everywhere in the datacentre to improve server use and datacentre power efficiency. Arastra claims the switch supports the highest 10Gbit port density - 2,016 10Gbit ports per 42 unit rack.

The switches are intended to be situated at the "top of rack" for server aggregation at the edge of the data centre. These switches then connect to a core fabric switch for interconnection to other datacentre server and storage resources.

The 7100 supports wirespeed Layer 2 and Layer 3 switching with throughput as high as 960Gbit/s and 714M packet/sec with submicrosecond latency, Arastra says. In a multichassis configuration, the 7100 scales to 4,096 10G ports supporting aggregate throughput of more than 80Tbit/s and 60 billion packet/sec.

The switches are based on Fulcrum Microsystems' new FocalPoint FM4000 chips, which Fulcrum says are designed to enable datacentre networks to scale into the thousands of nodes. Fulcrum's technology helps Arastra offer the 7100 Series at $400 per 10Gbit/s port, Arastra says.

That price point is sure to boost demand for 10G Ethernet in the datacentre, and stir response from other "top of rack" and perhaps core fabric-switch vendors as well.

"It demonstrates that people are going to go after 10G seriously in the datacentre with price points that are beginning to make it make a lot of sense to start looking in that direction," says Joe Skorupa, an analyst at Gartner. "It's going to reset people's expectations. There will be multiple vendors in this space with these sorts of price points for the top of rack, or for a switch that plugs into a blade chassis. But you still need someone who's got a cost effective high density core switch."

Woven Systems, another 10G start-up, has such a switch, Skorupa notes. Cisco does not - it helped found Nuova Systems to fill that gap, Skorupa says.

Foundry is well positioned in the core, and it may respond with 10GB "top of rack" offering at similar price points, Skorupa notes. Force10, meanwhile, may be impacted the most by the Arastra announcement.

The 7100 Series includes two models: the 7124S with 24 10G SFP+ ports and the 7148S with 48 10G SFP+ ports. Both are in field trials at several sites including government laboratories and financial institutions.

Production units will be available in the first quarter of 2008.