Fixed form factor switches are pretty heavy duty. They have been the de facto standard for top of rack (ToR) connectivity for several years, but now have applicability in the core of the data center network as well. The reliability and performance that were once only associated with “big iron” chassis-based switches now extend to fix form factor switches as well. This is particularly true when deployed within a leaf/spine (aka core/access) architecture. Thus, in many environments, fixed-form factor switches are less expensive and easier to support than their chassis-based counterparts.
Most of the mainstream vendors like Cisco, HP, Arista, Juniper and Dell offer merchant silicon-based switches in their switching lines (typically Broadcom’s Trident II chipset) and this is leading to lowered prices. Thus, you can now build a two-tier leave/spine architecture supporting 384 ports (2 spines @ 32x40G + 8 leafs @ 48x10G) for well under $200k (street pricing) that supports 192 dual-connected physical servers. If 80% of your server instances are virtual, that means you can get nearly 1000 VMS on that infrastructure. Certainly, this is great for the midmarket….but for the critics who say it doesn’t scale…well, its good enough for Facebook.
As a result, we’ve been updating our research in the space recently (and congrats to my new colleague Danilo Ciscato, as this was his first published research with Gartner).
Summary: The emergence of high-density fixed form factor switches can reduce or eliminate the need for costlier, oversized chassis-based switches in the data center. The move toward FFF switches will help network managers deliver higher-performance networks and reduce footprint, power, cooling and TCO.
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