Choosing the right Top of Rack (ToR) Ethernet switch for your HPC cluster can be an important decision. The Ethernet traffic in a cluster doesn’t always require a large amount of bandwidth, but using an under powered switch can result in packet loss that will cause issues with your HPC cluster’s performance. Choose between Brocade and Cisco Ethernet switches.

Brocade Partners
Brocade Premier Partner Badge

Aspen Systems is a Brocade Premier Partner, having proven the ability to efficiently deliver networking solutions to customers, as well as the Company’s extensive knowledge, skills and expertise in the networking industry. Our certified engineers can help you determine which Brocade switches will provide the best solution for your HPC cluster configuration.



Brocade Ethernet Switches

Brocade automated switches, from Aspen Systems, deliver high performance, high capacity and high reliability for data center spine and leaf deployments. With fabrics for Layer 2 and Layer 3 networks, open standards support and extensive scalability for massive data centers, time- and cost-saving network automation, and a single switch family that supports it all, your data center is ready for innovation.

Brocade Logo

Aspen Systems primarily uses the Brocade ICX line of switches for most of the HPC clusters that we build. The ICX switches provide a great balance between performance and cost. The ICX line of switches provides unmatched availability for low-cost switching with redundant uplink/stacking ports, hitless stacking failover, and configurable power redundancy. Offering up to 176Gbps of throughput the Brocade ICX switches provide true wire speed communications for bandwidth intensive tasks such as transferring images to diskless compute nodes or transferring data for processing from end-users’ workstations to the cluster.

Campus Network Switches

Aspen Systems carry Brocade Campus Fabric Technology for ICX switches which feature flexible scalability, simplified management and low TCO. Scale ports and services easily, campus-wide, as user applications and devices grow. Premium switches share advanced services with entry-level switches while delivering centralized management. And enjoy open standards support that provides multi-vendor interoperability, SDN adoption, and investment protection.

A Cost Effective Path to High-End Networking

Brocade ICX 6450 Switch
Brocade ICX 6450 Switch

The only thing that’s entry-level about the Brocade ICX 6450 campus switches is the price. You get a highly manageable networking switch in a flexible, stacking architecture with Layer 3 routing capabilities.

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Shop Brocade Campus Switches

Brocade takes a workflow-centric approach to bringing network automation and agility into IT operations with cross-domain workflows.

Brocade’s Kelly Herrell Opening Day Keynote for Big Communications Event 2016.

“To unleash the design creativity necessary for New IP networks that can support the exponential growth of devices and traffic, we have to find the fundamental assumptions to which we are clinging. We need to shine a light on them and challenge those aggressively. It’s time to re-think the network.”

Brocade Data Center Switches

Brocade’s VDX line of switches offer Ethernet speeds of up to 100Gbps for a lower cost alternative to Infiniband for applications that don’t require the low latency of Infiniband. The VDX line of switches also provide an excellent base to create an Ethernet fabric in a multi-rack configuration for faster east/west communication between clusters. Brocade’s VDX switches can also be easily integrated into a data center’s existing fabric for redundancy and high-speed data transfers between the end-users and the cluster. VDX switches are also an excellent solution for applications utilizing FCoE.

A High Performance Switch for Data Center Ethernet Connectivity

Brocade VDX 6740 Switch
Brocade VDX 6740 Switch

Brocade VDX 6740 switches can help you build a smart virtualization strategy by meeting the demands of today’s applications with easy scalability and automated management. These Top of Rack (ToR) switches support 1/10/40 GbE ports — enabling the efficiency and flexibility you need to support cloud computing, virtualization, mobility and consolidation.

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A Data Center Switch with Immediate ROI

Brocade VDX 8770 Switches are highly scalable, low-latency modular switches, perfectly suited for helping respond to demanding network environments based on booming data usage and cloud computing. Designed to support Brocade data center networking fabrics, the VDX 8770 supports complex, highly dynamic environments with dense virtualization, extensive automation and high availability requirements. Brocade VDX 8770 offers wire speed and non-blocking packet forwarding to meet the capacity requirements of 1/10GbE servers and storage with 40/100 GbE uplinks and deep buffers. The 8770 can support more than 10,000 ports using multi-fabrics with overlays.

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Brocade VDX 877 Switch
Brocade VDX 8770 Switch

Fabric Switches Pack Massive Capability into a Small Footprint

Brocade VDX 6940 Ethernet Switch
Brocade VDX 6940 Switch

Brocade VDX 6940 switches let you scale out your data center environments with huge capacity and compelling economic benefits. Enable connection with top-of-rack switches or directly to servers. Include automation that lets you add switches network-wide without manual configuration. Then top it off with exceptional application performance.

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Mellanox Ethernet


Mellanox provides the highest performing Open Ethernet switch systems at speeds of 10/25/40/50/56/100Gb/s, enabling Data Centers, Cloud Computing, Storage, Web2.0 and High Performance Computing applications to operate at maximum functionality at any scale.

Flexibility, Speed and the World of Open Ethernet

Mellanox Spectrum Ethernet Logo

From SwitchX-2 to Spectrum, the Mellanox family of Open Ethernet switches provides the most efficient network solution for the ever-increasing performance demands of Data Center applications. In addition to running with the home grown MLNX-OS software, Mellanox Spectrum based devices are introducing the Linux experience with running Cumulus-Linux operating system. A revolutionary approach to switch operating systems using native Linux tools within a switch operating system and a rich set of L3 features to provide a wide range of data center applications to enjoy the Spectrum advantage.

The Open Ethernet family includes a broad portfolio of 1RU-sized switches, ranging from 12 ports to 64 ports and with speeds from 1Gb/s to 100Gb/s, allowing the construction of purpose-built data centers at any scale with any desired blocking ratio.

The Mellanox Family of Open Ethernet Switches

  SX6018 SX1012 SX1016 SX1024 SX1036 SX1410 SX1710 SN2700 SN2410 SN2100
  SX6018 SX1012 SX1016 SX1024 SX1036 SX1410 SX1710 SN2700 SN2410 SN2100
100GbE Ports 32 8 16
50GbE Ports 64 16 32
25GbE Ports 64 64 64
40/56GbE Ports 18 12 0 12 36 12 36 32 8 16
10GbE Ports 58 48 64 48 64 48 64 64 64 64
Height 1U 1U 1U 1U 1U 1U 1U 1RU 1RU 1RU
Switching Capacity 2.02Tb/s 1.34TB/s 1.28TB/s 1.92Tb/s 4.03Tb/s 1.92Tb/s 4.03Tb/s 6.4Tb/s 6.4Tb/s 3.2Tb/s
Performance Nonblocking Nonblocking Nonblocking Nonblocking Nonblocking Nonblocking Nonblocking Nonblocking Nonblocking Nonblocking
FRUs PS and Fans No No PS and Fans PS and Fans PS and Fans PS and Fans PS and Fans PS and Fans No
PSU Redundancy Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
FAN Redundancy Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
CPU PPC PPC PPC PPC PPC x86 x86 x86 x86 x86

Mellanox Ethernet Logo

Accompanied by Mellanox’s Unified Fabric Manager (UFM), as well as the world’s fastest network interface cards, interconnect modules and cables, Mellanox provides a complete end-to-end Ethernet solution that scales to perform at the highest level. The Open Ethernet family includes a broad portfolio of 1RU-sized switches, ranging from 12 ports through 64 ports and with speeds from 1Gb/s to 100Gb/s, allowing the construction of purpose-built data centers at any scale with any desired blocking ratio. This enables network and data center managers to design and implement a cost-effective switch fabrics by the “pay as you grow” principle, in which the fabric can be composed of a few servers in the beginning, and grow gradually into hundreds of thousands of servers. Incorporating SDN attributes, the Mellanox Ethernet solution rewards the data center administrator with tools that provide a clean, simple and flexible view, and orchestration capabilities for the infrastructure. The result is an easily accessible framework that provides the data center applications with utmost elasticity. With its unique design principles and uncompromised quality, Mellanox’s 3rd generation of Ethernet data center switch integrated circuits draws a new benchmark line for industry performance.

The 10/25/40/50/56/100Gb/s Ethernet Switch Data Centers Demand

Mellanox SN2700 Ethernet Switch
Mellanox SN2700 Ethernet Switch

The SN2700 switch provides the highest density 100GbE switching solution for the growing demands of today’s data centers environments. The SN2700 switch is an ideal spine and top of rack (ToR) solution, allowing maximum flexibility, with port speeds spanning from 10Gb/s to 100Gb/s per port and port density that enables full rack connectivity to any server at any speed. The flexible port speed configuration allows a variety of blocking ratios that suit any application requirement.

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High Density, Side-by-Side, Ideal Storage/Database Switch

The SX1012 switch system provides the highest-performing top-of-rack (ToR) solution in a half-width 1U form factor by delivering up to 1.3Tb/s of non-blocking throughput with 10GbE or 40/56GbE form factor. The SX1012 is the ideal top-of-rack (ToR) switch for small pods connecting a small number of servers with 40GbE. Based on Mellanox’s SwitchX®-2 silicon and advanced hardware design, each QSFP port can be used with a passive breakout cable to create four discrete SFP+ interfaces to be used as 10GbE ports, for a total of 48-ports on the smallest form factor 10GbE ToR in the industry.

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Mellanox SX1012 Ethernet Switch
Mellanox SX1012 Ethernet Switch

Mellanox World-Class Ethernet Performance in a Card

Mellanox 10/25/40/50/56/100 Gigabit Ethernet Network Interface Cards (NIC) deliver high bandwidth and industry-leading connectivity for performance-driven server and storage applications in the most demanding data centers, public and private clouds, Web2.0 and Big Data applications, as well as High-Performance Computing (HPC) and Storage systems. Clustered databases, web infrastructure, and high frequency trading are just a few example applications that will achieve significant throughput and latency improvements resulting in faster access, real-time response and increased number of virtual machines per server.

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ConnectX-5 supports two ports of 100Gb/s Ethernet connectivity, sub-700 nanosecond latency, and very high message rate, plus PCIe switch and NVMe over Fabric offloads, providing the highest performance and most flexible solution for the most demanding applications and markets.

ConnectX-5 Accelerated Switching and Packet Processing (ASAP2) technology enhances offloading of virtual switches and virtual routers, for example, Open V-Switch (OVS), which results in significantly higher data transfer performance without overloading the CPU. Together with native RoCE and DPDK (Data Plane Development Kit) support, ConnectX-5 dramatically improves Cloud and NFV platform efficiency.

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Mellanox ConnectX-5 Dual-Port Ethernet Adapter Card
Mellanox ConnectX-5 Dual-Port Ethernet Adapter Card

Cisco Logo
Cisco Premier Partner

Access Switches that are Smart, Simple and Highly Secure

Aspen Systems also utilizes Cisco Catalyst switches as a Top of Rack (ToR) solution for HPC clusters. Use your network to innovate and transform your organization. Cisco Catalyst access switches bring wired and wireless together to more easily deploy mobility, strengthen security and simplify your network. They help you increase scale, improve reliability and create greater efficiency.

Cisco Catalyst 2900-X Switches
Cisco Catalyst 2960-X Switches

Choose the Switch that’s Right for You

The Catalyst 2960-X series of Cisco switches provide a good entry-level switching platform for any HPC cluster. The Catalyst 2960-X switches offer Ethernet speeds of up to 1Gbps for reliable, high-speed communication using standard UTP copper cabling. Cisco Catalyst 2960-X Series Switches are fixed-configuration, stackable Gigabit Ethernet switches that provide enterprise-class access for campus and branch applications. Designed for operational simplicity to lower total cost of ownership, they enable scalable, secure and energy-efficient business operations.

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Unify Access with High Performance

The Cisco Catalyst 3850 series of switches are also an excellent entry-level switch with stacking capabilities. The 3850 series switches offer Ethernet speeds up to 10Gbps using SFP+ to provide high-speed data transfers from the end-users to the cluster, or to get images transferred quickly to diskless compute nodes.

Get faster access. Faster aggregation. And know that you’re ready for 802.11ac Wave 2 and other new technologies that are here today, or coming at you tomorrow. Stackable Catalyst 3850 Series multigigabit and 10Gb switches give you wired and wireless together so you can scale up and protect your investments.

Read more about Cisco Catalyst 3850 Switches

Cisco Catalyst 3850 Switches
Cisco Catalyst 3850 Switches

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