Data center convergence: space for WAN?

Karen Liu/Ovum
26 Aug 2011

Two acquisitions by major vendors on successive days in July highlighted the increased importance of networking in the server world: Dell acquired Force10 networks, and Intel acquired Fulcrum Microsystems. In both cases, market leaders acquired relatively small switching vendors as part of a broader strategy to build a converged data center offering. Motivated by high stakes well beyond networking alone, these deals will add deep pockets to 10GbE, 40GbE, and 100GbE adoption and other technology development.

The acquisitions also raise the question of where if anywhere WAN belongs in the convergence trend. The change in ownership raises questions about how Fulcrum’s and Force10′s service provider networking products fit in. Ovum speculates about one possibility.

Dell completes data center lineup

Dell has steadily strengthened its offerings for enterprise customers, which increasingly means data centers. Dell is building global data centers to offer cloud services itself. Ethernet networking is the last hardware piece it needed to complete its data center portfolio. Aside from its PowerVault storage systems, it has iSCSI, NAS, and SAN via the EqualLogic, Exanet, and Compellent acquisitions which occurred from 2008 to early 2011. Dell wants a credible data center solution – including the same operating system and management system across large and small switches – that it can get with a purely Force10 lineup, relegating its lower-speed PowerConnect products to campus LAN.

Dell recognizes need to be an innovation leader to gain data center share

Dell stated that it was attracted by Force10′s R&D team as well as its products. Force10 touts ultra-low latency and ultra-fast speeds, perhaps a surprising choice for Dell who targets the mid-market data center.

Ovum believes Dell will seek to compete through technology agility. In the server market, it occupies the classic third-place market attacker position behind HP and IBM, which have staked out the mass market and high-end respectively. Force10′s participation in high-performance markets will give Dell time-to-market advantage in the mainstream market as product attributes trickle down. Having just bought its way into 10GbE and 40GbE, Dell now says it may prioritize 100GbE development over 40GbE.

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