Infiniband vendor Voltaire has launched a new switch aimed at the data centre switching arena with a core switch optimised for virtualisation and Layer 2 efficiency.

The company's first Ethernet switch, the Vantage 8500, is the embodiment of the company's "Scale-Out Ethernet" data centre architecture. The switch features a 12-slot 11.5Tbps chassis with a peak slot capacity of 960Gbps.

Initially, the Vantage 8500 will support 288 nonblocking 10G Ethernet ports, with future plans to accommodate 432 and 576 10G Ethernet ports with higher density line cards. Current Line card options include 24 port 10G Ethernet SFP+ nonblocking; 36 port 10G Ethernet SFP+; and 20 port 10G Ethernet plus eight port FibreChannel, which will come next year.

The switch supports the imminent Converged Enhanced Ethernet specifications from the IEEE, FibreChannel over Ethernet, Voltaire's virtual switch fabric and I/O techniques, latency of less than 1 microsecond and less than 10 watts of power per port, said Voltaire.

Up to 12 Vantage 8500s can be clustered together to connect up to 3,400 servers, Voltaire says. It interoperates with standard Gigabit Ethernet and 10G Ethernet switches, and provides "fabric wide" congestion management and QoS, the company said.

Voltaire claimed that  the Vantage 8500's congestion control and routing optimization silicon can detect and avoid impending congestion rather than react to it. Its patent pending Virtual I/O Port Objects (VIPO) technology, which the company says is "aligned" with Virtual Ethernet Bridging work in the IEEE, partitions each switch port into multiple independent virtual ports so they can be provisioned, monitored and mirrored as if they were physical ports.

VIPO policies can migrate across physical ports, Voltaire says.

Fabric virtualisation allows the switch to be partitioned into virtual data centres. Each virtual data centre consists of physical or virtual servers, with isolated virtual I/O to storage and network resources, Voltaire said.

Servers can dynamically change and move while policy and SLA is maintained, and user access can be restricted to a virtual data centre, claimed the company.

Voltaire says all of these features in the Vantage 8500 - VIPO, virtual fabric, congestion management, high throughput and low latency - can eliminate a whole layer of aggregation switching in the data centre. According to the company, top-of-rack server interconnect switches can connect direct to the core with an intermediary aggregation layer, resulting in a flatter, more scalable and energy efficient design.

Voltaire is aiming the Vantage 8500 squarely at Cisco's Nexus 7000 switches. Voltaire claims the switch provides a threefold increase in capacity and a twentyfold improvement in latency over the Nexus 7000, at a third of the power and half the cost.

The Vantage 8500 costs $1,200(£752) per 10G Ethernet port. It will ship in the second half of 2009. Voltaire said it will announce OEM partners for the switch in the coming months - Voltaire Infiniband OEMs include IBM, HP and Sun - and hypervisor partners as early as this week.