Force10 Networks has announced a new mid-range chassis switch with an innovative eight-port 10G line card, and has completed porting its FTOS operating system to its whole switch range. It now has a common feature set and command line interface across all three of its switch families, the company said.

In the future, this common OS will also allow its switches to run applications from third-parties, Force10 added. This could enable the switch to take over popular network tasks such as load balancing or security.

As a start-up specialising in line-rate 10G switching, Force10 scored a number of wins in Internet exchanges and big datacentres with its high-end resilient E-Series switches. More recently it has aimed to expand its footprint, first with a smaller chassis-based range called C-Series, and then with its S-Series rack-mounted access switches.

"We have finished porting FTOS to all our hardware now, so there should be no more confusion over which ones have which features and how they work," said Steve Garrison, Force10's marketing VP.

"It's stable, modular, high-reliability code. We developed it on the big E-Series in '99, the C-Series got it last year, and now it's on the S-Series, so it's end-to-end."

The porting process involved creating a hardware abstraction layer (HAL) for the latter two ranges - a HAL is a software shim which makes different hardware look alike to the operating system, which in this case is based on NetBSD.

"A few years ago the networking industry didn't even talk about the OS - it was all speeds and feeds," Garrison added. "But with end-to-end VLANs, and people trying to run services from edge to core, or do in-line service and diagnostics - such as our automated fault correction (AFC) technique, it's become important.

"We also have the ability to do third-party software integration - we're discussing it with partners. It wouldn't be equivalent to a full appliance, but similar to a mid-tier application."

The common OS is already proving useful in the field, according to Cyrus Mohit, datacentre ops manager at Force10 customer eHarmony.

"With FTOS as the common OS across the E-Series and C-Series, we not only have a single, reliable code running on our switches but managing the network, from troubleshooting to software upgrades, is much easier," he declared.

On the hardware side, Force10 introduced what it claimed was "the industry's first eight-port, line-rate 10 Gigabit Ethernet line card," and expanded its C-Series with the four-slot C150. Garrison said that at $16,000, the new card brings 10G Ethernet pricing to a new low of around £1000 per additional port.

The $16,500 (£8300) C150 is a half-size version of the existing eight-slot C300, which targets Cisco's Cat 4500. It is aimed at mid-sized data centres and supports Gigabit or 10G line cards. Both fibre and copper 48-port Gigabit line cards are available - Garrison said the switch can scale to 192 Gigabit ports, each with full 15.4W PoE.