Dell says it's hoping to move closer to the forefront of data centre technology with the release today of a suite of new products designed for software-defined networking.

The company's core Active Fabric software, available immediately, provides a platform for flat "any-to-any" data centre traffic using a scalable number of standardised 10G/40G switches. The product also includes support for Microsoft, VMware and OpenStack hypervisors, as well as OpenFlow-based virtual switches.

Dell also announced a single-interface design system for Active Fabric, called Active Fabric Manager. In addition to automating virtual network design and provisioning and configuration tasks via custom GUIs, the product offers role-based access to the central console, allowing workers from different departments to manage parts of the network relevant to them. AFM is expected to be available in late May.

Dell is also rolling out the S5000 top-of-rack switch. The S5000 is a 1U device that can support up to 64 10G ports in a modular chassis -- a total of four modules can be installed in the device, providing flexibility. The S5000 is expected to go on sale in July, and pricing information was not available.

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According to IDC analyst Brad Casemore, Dell's new SDN lineup is a response to changing conditions in the marketplace.

"Dell is responding to the need for scale-out networking that can accommodate virtualised workloads and the cloud. At the same time, Dell is seeking to provide network infrastructure that can provide converged networking for storage and data," he says.

Essentially, Dell's trying to promote the idea that it's a one-stop shop for the data centre of the near future -- which Casemore says could broaden the company's appeal.

"Dell is taking its network sales pitch not just to networking professionals, but also to other constituencies within the data centre, including the CIO, and the virtualisation and storage professionals," he says.