Force10 Networks unveiled a Gigabit Ethernet top-of-rack data centre switch optimised for virtual environments.

The 1RU S60 features 48 wire-speed Gigabit Ethernet ports, 44 10/100/1000 Base TX and four SFP, and up to four 10 Gigabit Ethernet uplinks for connecting to core switches, or for stacking. It has a forwarding capacity of 120 million packets/sec and a switching capacity of 136Gbps. The S60 also supports deep buffers and auto-configuration capabilities to accommodate the proliferation of virtual machines (VM) in data centers.

While 10 Gigabit Ethernet is the more buzzed-about data centre switching technology, Gigabit Ethernet switching accounted for more than 90% of the top-of-rack ports shipped in 2009, Force10 says, citing data from Dell'Oro Group. And since 10 Gigabit Ethernet already has a high I/O throughput, they do not need to virtualize as much as Gigabit Ethernet environments, the company says.

Servers hosting scores of VMs create unpredictable traffic patterns, especially when running bursty applications such as  streaming video and storage, Force10 says. This creates network congestion that can result in dropped packets and high latency, the company says.

To address this, the S60 incorporates packet buffering of 1.25GB, which is 800 times the buffering capability of some competitive products, the company claims. Competitors include Cisco's Catalyst 4948, Extreme's X450a, Brocade's FCX648, Juniper's EX4200 and Arista Networks, 7048, according to Force10.

Force10's FTOS operating system also allows administrators to "tune" buffer allocation to certain VMs and applications, Force10 says. The S60 also supports an auto-configuration feature to simplify switch provisioning. This is designed to quickly configure and provision additional S60 top-of-rack switches for scale.

Up to 12 S60s can be stacked and managed as a single logical switch. The switch also supports front-to-back or back-to-front airflow, and redundant AC or DC power supplies. Power consumption on the switch is 156 watts.

The S60 represents the first Force10 switch to ship automation ready to scale and simplify the management and provisioning of complex virtualided data centre environments. The switch includes a suite of management tools. The S60 starts at $10,595. It will be available at the end of June.