Is Multi-Rate Right For You?

June 21, 2017 Bob Reason

Watch this new on-demand webinar and find out!

The demand for flexible data rates across both data center and campus networks is growing as enterprise switched networks continue to be driven by the increasing bandwidth demands of new access devices and technology. In order to maintain greater data speeds across their enterprise networks, organizations are looking to flexible multi-rate switch solutions that allow them to seamlessly transition to greater speeds to support current and future requirements with maximum flexibility.

What is Multi-Rate?

Ethernet has been around forever and many say that multi-rate has been available within Ethernet for quite a while. However, what some people may not know is that in the last year or two there have been some new developments in the standards committee which has resulted in the introduction of new intermediate data rates that exist both in the access edge portion of the Ethernet network as well as in the data center and core. A key driver for these new data rates is the increased bandwidth required to support new IoT devices and applications. This market is expected to take off in the next 2-4 years, and according to Dell’Oro, 250% compound annual growth is anticipated for multi-rate Ethernet through 2020. Multi-rate can deliver benefits in the access edge and in the data center.

Benefits of Multi-Rate in the Access Edge

At the access edge, Wave 2 802.11ac access points at the edge often require greater bandwidth than a 1Gb data rate to connect back to the wired infrastructure environment. This is driving the requirement for a new class of Ethernet and Ethernet switch port capability to connect and support this new class of devices.

When we talk about multi-rate in the access edge, we are alluding to the new 2.5Gb and 5Gb data rates that are now available and were recently ratified as IEEE 802.3bz within the last year. The benefit of multi-rate is that you can now run greater than 1Gb over your existing copper infrastructure – this includes the capability of running 2.5Gb rates over Cat5e cable and 5Gb rates over Cat6.  The real advantage here is that you don’t have to rip up all your cabling and copper and put in fiber as a replacement as you require additional bandwidth – providing a real cost benefit.

Benefits of Multi-Rate in the Data Center

In the data center it’s a similar story, server technology is beginning to evolve and 25Gb server technology is becoming more and more available thanks to the fact that you can get 25Gb at 2.5 times the performance than you could get at the 10Gb rates at just a 40% increase in the underlying cost. As such, there has been similar work to introduce new intermediate data rates in the data center between 10 and 100Gb, and specifically new 25 and 50Gb data rates have been defined and ratified within the IEEE 802.3by group, which was standardized within the last year. These intermediate data rates give you new options in the data center for flexible, economical upgrades to higher data rates.

One of the benefits provided within the new data rates is the ability to incrementally upgrade and have flexible bandwidth across the data center infrastructure, especially within some of the new architectures that we are seeing more and more in the data center. Another important benefit that comes with the 25Gb support is the ability to have higher port density on the switch, one 100Gb port (because of the way the standard has been defined) can support either four 25Gb ports or two 50Gb ports.

Extreme Introduces New Multi-Rate Switches

To support the requirements for these new intermediate data rates, we have introduced three new multi-rate switch offerings to roll out our multi-rate capabilities across our portfolio.  The first, our X870 Series, is for the data center or core switching environment. This is a new high density 100Gb Spine/Leaf switch that supports all the intermediate data rates from 10 to 100Gb. We also have two new multi-rate Ethernet switches that support 1, 2.5 and 5GB.  These include the X620-16p, a new model within the existing switch family that not only introduces the multi-rate capabilities but new PoE++ 60W capability as well, and a new multi-rate model within the X460-G2 family. I am pleased to tell you that these new products are all available now and have already started shipping.

You can learn more about these new multi-rate switches by watching the on-demand webinar where we share the in-depth details about these new offerings and answer the following customer questions and more:

  • Can the new X870 multi-rate switch support 40Gb and 100Gb operation at the same time on different ports?
  • What 10Gb transceiver form factor is used for the X870?
  • How do you handle port numbering when different speeds are configured?
  • Do the 40Gb and 100Gb multi-rate switches automatically or manually auto-negotiate?
  • Will the licensing issues prevent the port from functioning as configured or will it give an alert or warning?


Today’s mid-size and large enterprises require products that will enable them to streamline their existing infrastructure and meet their evolving datacenter and enterprise networking needs. As organizations continue to invest in IoT, Big Data and the cloud as a whole, it’s inevitable that vendors will need to provide solutions that can not only simplify data operations, but also accelerate them so that datacenter performance can keep pace. Created to deliver flexibility, increased performance, cost savings and investment protection to help you deal with next-Gen network requirements, our multi-rate switches have got you covered. 

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