10G ToR/Leaf Ethernet Switch: What Is the Right Choice?

Updated on November 1, 2021

The explosive growth in online applications, cloud services and virtualization also fuels the need for high-speed switching. 10Gb Ethernet switch has become ubiquitous in data center application, working as Top-of-Rack (ToR) switches at the edge of the network or leaf switches in data center spine-leaf architecture. Feeling the growing pains with switch selection with a dazzling array of 10 gigabit switches? We are going to check out 10G ToR/Leaf switches by FS 10G switch comparison: S5850-48S6Q and N5850-48S6Q.

10G ToR/Leaf Ethernet Switch: Solid Foundation for Next-Generation Network

10Gb switch has evolved with significant performance gains and cost-per-port reduction. 10Gb switch has become an indispensable part of the switch system. 10G Ethernet switch helps build a network foundation for modern data center applications while also pave the way for future growth. 10G ToR switch handles L2 and L3 processing, data center bridging and FCoE for an entire rack of services, with the advantage of less power consumption, ease of scale and simplified cabling complexity. When acting as a leaf switch, 10G Ethernet switch can be placed just one hop away from another, no need to jump up and down in the tree design, enabling improved latency and minimized bottlenecks. IT professionals thus can quickly add new leaf switches to accommodate data center growth, without re-architecting the network. The following picture shows a "spine-leaf" topology using FS N5850-48S6Q as leaf switch and N8000-32Q as spine switch.

Spine-leaf topology with 10 gigabit switch

FS 10G ToR/Leaf Switch Comparison: S5850-48S6Q vs N5850-48S6Q

FS 10G Ethernet switches are built to use in traditional and fully virtualized data center with high performance, throughput and flexibility, which can be connected directly to network-attached storage, or serve as a standalone switch for highly demanding 10/40GbE environments. Here we mainly introduce two of the most popular ones: S5850-48S6Q and N5850-48S6Q switch, by illustrating and comparing the features and functions of each.

Port Configuration

As shown in the following picture, both S5850-48S6Q and N5850-48S6Q 10G switches have 48 10GbE SFP+ ports and 6 40GbE QSFP+ uplink ports in a compact 1RU form factor design. The 40G QSFP+ ports can be used to uplink 40G switches for scaling to Spine-Leaf topology or breakout as 4×10G  to link 10G devices.

FS 10G ethernet switch

Port Attributes S5850-48S6Q N5850-48S6Q
10GbE SFP+ Ports 48 48
40GbE QSFP+ Ports 6 6
100GbE QSFP28 Ports - -
Max.10GbE Density 72 72
Max.40GbE Density 6 6
Max.100GbE Density - -

Parameters Comparison

Despite having the same port configuration and switching capacity, S5850-48S6Q and N5850-48S6Q 10G ToR switches differ largely if we dig deeper into other parameters, for example, the CPU S5850-48S6Q runs on is from Freescale while N5850-48S6Q operates with Intel. Moreover, N5850-48S6Q is an open source SDN switch that pre-loaded with Broadcom ICOS and Trident 2 BCM switching chip. The diagram below presents some other differences of these two 10G Ethernet switch.

Performance S5850-48S6Q N5850-48S6Q
Switch Fabric Capacity 1.44Tbps 1.44Tbps full-duplex
Forwarding Rate 1072Mpps 1 Bpps
CPU Freescale PowerPC P1010 Intel Rangeley C2538 2.4Ghz 4-core
Latency 612ns 680ns
Packet Buffer Memory 9 MB 12 MB
Flash Storage Memory 2 GB 16GB SSD
Memory 1 GB 4GB DDR3 (RAM Memory) 8GB (ROM Memory)
Typical/Max Power Drew 150W/190W 200W
Airflow Direction Front-to-Back/Back-to-Front (Optional) Back-to-Front

Feature Sets Comparison

S5850-48S6Q and N5850-48S6Q switches are designed to meet the next generation metro, data center and enterprise network requirements. So they both process functions like MLAG, VxLAN, IPv4/IPv6, PIM-SM, PIM-DM, PIM-SSM, sFLOW, QinQ and QoS to better improve network speed performance and security. However, as an OpenFlow 1.3.11 based SDN switch, N5850-48S6Q also boosts several advanced feature sets: with a x86-based control plane for easier integration of automation tools. FS provides three purchasing choices for this switch, switch preloaded with Cumulus Linux, switch with ICOS, and an ONIE installer for users to choose 3rd party network operating system, thus avoiding vendors lock-in while successfully enhance network programmability and agility. N5850 also greatly enhances network resiliency by supporting MPLS – a power tool for any network to manage capacity, prioritize different services, and prevent congestion.

Deep Dive into FS 10G Ethernet Switch Features

Above we’ve just gone through some very abstract features of S5850-48S6Q and N5850-48S6Q switches, which may far from enough to properly apply them into your network. So here we list some commonly asked questions from our customer, and we’re gonna explain each to help you get a further understanding of them.

FAQs About S5850-48S6Q Ethernet Switch

Q:Does S5850-48S6Q have EVPN support? If so, what transport do they support for EVPN?

A:S5850-48S6Q Ethernet switch supports VxLAN based EVPN (Ethernet VPN). VxLAN-EVPN offers significant advantages in Overlay networking by optimizing forwarding decision within the network based on Layer 2 MAC as well as Layer 3 IP information, providing a standards-based overlay that supports segmentation, host mobility, and high scale. It is an integration of physical and virtual networks with hybrid overlays, which will facilitate SDN deployment when you’re considering make the move.

Q:What operating system is S5850-48S6Q switch run on? Does it support MPLS?

A:The operating system of S5850-48S6Q switch is redeveloped based on IPI ZebOS - the world’s most comprehensive standards-based Layer 2, Layer 3, and MPLS/TP network platform that help to accelerate the development of SDN-based architectures for next generation Carrier Ethernet, data center and cloud networks. It supports over 200 network protocols that conform to industry standards, allowing you to select and integrate the protocols needed for your specific requirements. For S5850-48S6Q switch, ZebOS only support Layer 2, Layer 3 platform but not MPLS. If you need MPLS, please consider N5850-48S6Q switch instead.

Q:Can S5850-48S6Q switch be deployed with Cumulus Linux?

A:Cumulus Linux is a version of the open source operating system built to run bare-metal switch hardware. It can support switches and platforms with various port densities, form factors and capabilities. S5850-48S6Q switch is not an open source switch and it has pre-loaded with ZebOS, so it cannot support Cumulus Linux. Choose our N-series data center switches if you want to apply Cumulus Linux.

FAQs About N5850-48S6Q Ethernet Switch

Q:Does N5850-48S6Q switch support ONIE and OpenFlow, will it support Cumulus?

A:N5850-48S6Q supports current and future data center requirements, including a x86-based control plane for easier integration of automation tools, an ONIE installer for 3rd party network OS and compatibility with SDN via OpenFlow 1.3.11. Certainly, It supports Cumulus Linux. FS has released the Cumulus Linux version. Customers can order it at our website, and receiving tech support from both FS and Cumulus.

Q:Is mirroring available with N5850-48S6Q switch? If so, which kind it supports? How about the max number of input/output ports ?

A:Yes, mirroring/span is available with N5850-48S6Q switch and it supports mirroring ports and Vlans. Mirroring enables to send a copy of network packets seen on one switch port (or an entire VLAN) to a network monitoring connection on another switch port. It indicates the ability to copy the traffic from a single port to a mirror port but disallows any type of bidirectional traffic on the port. All ports of N5850-48S6Q can mirror to one port at a time. For example, port 1-53 can mirror to port 54 but it requires a forwarding capability with total flow rate less than 54 ports.

S5850 vs. N5850 Ethernet Switch: Which Should I Choose?

S5850-48S6Q and N5850-48S6Q bear many similarities in terms of port design and basic functions. Besides the roughly $500 price gap, the main difference is that N5850-48S6Q is a higher-end device with SDN technology, along with several advanced feature sets it brings forth. SDN with OpenFlow protocolendows network programmability and agility by separating data plane and control plane, allowing for rapidly deploying a new service or modifying an existing one. Besides, there are three purchasing choices of N5850-48S6Q, supporting current and future data center requirements, including x86-based control plane for easier integration of automation tools, and compatibility with Software Defined Networks via OpenFlow 1.3.11. It also supports the advanced hardware based VXLAN feature to support over 16M virtual networks.

So if programmability is critical for your business growth and traditional method of management is no longer adequate to scale at the rate required, N5850-48S6Q SDN Ethernet switch could be the best fit. It can also satisfy organizations/business that network scalability and security is particularly important. The QoS feature helps address vulnerabilities in a timely manner. If data and control programmability is not what you desire, or the budget for migrating from non-SDN to SDN software and hardware is insufficient, our S5850-48S6Q switch would be a decent alternative. Besides, the EVPN function supported by S5850-48S6Q 40Gb switch will make it easier to deploy SDN when need arise.


Whether you need connectivity at the access layer or need to scale your data center network with a spine-leaf architecture to keep business evolving, 10G ToR switch or Leaf Ethernet switch is your way to go. FS offers 10Gb switch for both non-SDN and SDN data center environment, the choice actually depends on your specific condition and how you would like to manage the network. FS provides free software upgrade and tech support for our Ethernet switches, for more information, please contact us via


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