March 26, 2012

Victory at Thermopylae – Data Centre Product of the Year Award for the BlackDiamond X8


Thermopylae – road on the right is where the coast was at the time of 300.

Everyone loves an underdog, the scrappy contender who on paper at least, seems outnumbered, underweight and looks ready to be crushed by much larger, seemingly more formidable opponents. In history, of the more classic examples of the triumph of the underdog is the Battle of Thermopylae, a story told in the movie 300. Long and short of it is that a relatively small but highly trained and motivated force of 300 Spartans along with a few hundred others from various Greek city-states were able to hold off a vastly larger (most credible estimates are in the 70,000-300,000 range) Persian army under King Xerxes. The performance of the Spartans, who showed the world what a small but dedicated team of professionals could do, has provided inspiration for roughly the past 2500 years.

At Extreme Networks, our size alone (less than 1000 people worldwide) would have some paint us as the (purple) underdog. While some would say that our size puts us at a disadvantage, most of the people here say that it is actually an advantage. We can be leaner, faster and more nimble – more the rapier than the juggernaut. This allows us to focus and help lead the market with high performance networking gear. It makes it easier for us to quickly integrate new silicon into powerful new products.

Extreme Networks BlackDiamond X8 Cloud Scale Switch

Extreme Networks BlackDiamond X8

The latest example of the advantages of being small is the recent selection of the BlackDiamond® X8 as Data Centre Product of the Year 2012 by Network Computing. We built the BlackDiamond for the datacenter, with careful attention to power consumption. A panelist at a recent cloud computing event that we blogged about here said that his biggest data center concern is POWER (all caps). We listened (5.6 watts per 10 GbE port). Others have said that density is a concern, so we packed 192 40GbE ports or 768 10 GbE ports, all wirespeed, into 1/3 of a rack. Others have told us that latency is a concern, we addressed that with 2.3 µs port to port. Yet others told us that overall throughput is a concern, we replied with over 20 Tbps performance. Finally, some are concerned about virtualization, which we addressed with the capability to handle 128,000 VMs.

When you listen to your data center customers and put a crack team of engineers on the problem and back them up with a small but effective, nimble and motivated crew and everything comes together just right, you get the BlackDiamond X8. We are proud of the switch and honored by Network Computing giving us the Data Centre Product of the Year Award.

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