10G Ethernet Likely to Blossom in Niche Markets

By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2001-12-31

In 2002, 10 Gigabit Ethernet will be an important networking protocol for IT managers to follow, but on the enterprise front, there are only a few business cases ready for early adoption of this upcoming networking standard.

The key markets that are targeted by 10 Gigabit Ethernet vendors range from SANs (storage area networks) to service providers where 10 Gigabit Ethernet will make a bid to become the dominant backbone technology over optical switches.

Putting things in perspective, 10 Gigabit Ethernet can transfer the data of a standard DVD (4.5GB) in roughly 5 seconds. At these speeds, nothing except the biggest enterprise-class servers and large server cluster farms will be unable to take full advantage of this type of networking power.

10 Gigabit Ethernet products are sure to find a niche as backbone switches. In September 2001, at NetWorld+Interop in Atlanta, Cisco Systems Inc. announced the availability of its first 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch module (known as the 10GBase-EX4 Metro 10 Gigabit Ethernet Module—priced at $79,995), which plugs directly into Ciscos Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series switches without modifications.

With the 10 Gigabit Ethernet standard expected to be set between March and June 2002, we expect many other vendors to start shipping beta versions of their 10 Gigabit Ethernet equipment to early adopters.

Although we dont expect 10 Gigabit Ethernet to be widely implemented in LANs any time soon, now that the prices of Gigabit Ethernet adapters are dropping to less than $100 a card, we expect to see the amount of data flying around the network increase dramatically.

As applications for video streaming and high-end graphics continue to develop, Gigabit Ethernet will become more popular for desktops and workstations, and for this reason, IT managers will need to use 10 Gigabit Ethernet technology to link multiple Gigabit Ethernet switches.

On the early-adopter front, 10 Gigabit Ethernet should also be a good fit for unique markets such as film production houses and research facilities, where extremely large files are moved around throughout an organization.

At data rates of 10G bps, 10 Gigabit Ethernet will be able to easily eclipse the speeds of the storage industrys 2G-bps Fibre Channel storage specification.

Despite its vastly superior speed, the acceptance of IP networking protocols in SANs rests more on the iSCSI protocol than on 10 Gigabit Ethernet. iSCSI, which allows servers and storage units to transfer storage data in data blocks through IP networks, is still in its infancy. Further, application-specific integrated circuits that promise to decrease the latency of IP host bus adapters are still in their testing phase.

Thanks to its vast speed advantage, we see 10 Gigabit Ethernet as a powerful tool that will allow IT managers to link pools of SANs over distances up to 500 km.

According to network vendors, by moving storage networking tasks to 10 Gigabit Ethernet, IT managers will be able to leverage the large investments they have already made in acquiring and implementing IP networking hardware.

The most notable bonus will be in security, where 10 Gigabit Ethernet will be able to work with virtual private networks and IP Security products to secure data traveling through IP-based SANs.

In addition, bandwidth management technologies such as quality of service and device management utilities such as SNMP tools provide a much higher level of manageability that Fibre Channel networks simply cannot match right now.

Another major benefit to using IP-based storage with 10 Gigabit Ethernet is that the talent pool for knowledgeable IP networking staff is far greater than that of Fibre Channel storage networking.

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