May the force be with you

Whip out your slide rules, folks, because Force 10 Networks officials are ready to drop some math on you.

The networking hardware company is releasing two new routers based on 90-port Gigabit Ethernet, an industry first. The cards support the company's E1200 and E600 products.

Here's the math part: With 90 ports per card and 14 card slots per unit, the E1200 supports up to 1,260 Gigabit Ethernet connections per unit. The E600 is smaller, with 630 ports.

Andrew Feldman, vice president of marketing at Force 10 Networks, said the high-density products cost less to maintain, take up less data-center space and require less power and cooling.

The company's technology supports high-performance clustered computers in government labs. The company also counts the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies as clients. NOAA officials process 224 gigabytes a day of new climatological data.

"This is a big and well-fought space," with competitors that include Cisco Systems and Foundry Networks, he said. He said the new products put Force 10 Networks ahead of the competitors' technology by about two and a half years.

Although it's hard to argue against making networks of computers able to communicate more rapidly, we must ask: Have these people learned nothing from the "Terminator" films, in which a massive, interlinked computer network becomes self-aware and declares war on humanity?

Discovering IT

Managed Objects officials are releasing two new enterprise management tools to round out their suite of products. Business Technology Insight (BTI) automatically discovers and identifies information technology components within an enterprise's IT infrastructure. Business Service Configuration Management (BSCM) discovers the IT infrastructure topology and integrates this information with virtually any federated configuration data source, including other management tools and existing asset and configuration data.

Once it has the data, BSCM can map the complex relationships within the infrastructure to create a virtual Configuration Management Data Base. Once that's done, the system can send managers real-time alerts when changes occur anywhere within the IT service configuration.

"There's still frankly too much risk in the enterprise," said Dustin McNabb, vice president of marketing at Managed Objects. "It comes from people who are pressing buttons or pulling levers or turning knobs and changing something in the infrastructure. There are lots of changes that go on in the enterprise."

Like the famous butterfly effect metaphor — in which a tiny action such as the breath of wind stirred by a butterfly's wings can ripple outward, becoming more and more amplified and leading to world-changing events — a small change in a network can affect many things elsewhere in the infrastructure.

Network changes can alter how users receive services they need from the technologies.

McNabb said end users "could [not] care less whether a server went down or a disk drive failed." If end users can't get e-mail, they generally are not interested in why they can't. They just want the situation fixed.

The Defense Information Systems Agency and the Army are among Managed Objects' federal customers, and National Institutes of Health officials are beginning deployments now, he said.

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