New Switches Pave Way for 10G LAN Backbones

Products will smooth the aggregation of Gigabit Ethernet traffic.

Many of the companies that added support for 10 Gigabit Ethernet to their enterprise switches in the past year are now readying products that will increase the 10G port density in their product lines.

The development should enable enterprises to more easily connect campuses or buildings on a 10G LAN backbone and to aggregate Gigabit Ethernet traffic, which is increasingly the norm on LANs. The development should also smooth the progress of emerging grid computing technologies and the integration of storage area networks with LANs.

"It opens doors that heretofore we did not have open, and thats interoperability," said Greg Williamson, associate director of Information and Technology Services at Arkansas State University, in Jonesboro. The school is building a 10G backbone to aggregate Gigabit Ethernet traffic on its LAN.

Startup Force10 Networks Inc. is preparing to launch in September its first switch/router for 10G. It will provide full line-rate speeds of 10G bps and will support 28 10G ports in its chassis, said company officials in Milpitas, Calif.

Alcatel SA by the first quarter of next year plans to offer its first single-port 10G modules for its new OmniSwitch 8800 for large enterprises. Officials at the Paris-based company said 10G support is likely to expand next year into its OmniSwitch 7000-series switches for medium-size and smaller enterprise networks.

Other vendors looking to expand their single-port 10G support include Extreme Networks Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., which will extend support for 10G beyond its BlackDiamond switches to its Alpine line of core enterprise switches as customer demand increases, officials said. They declined to specify a time frame.

Foundry Networks Inc., which supports 10G on its BigIron switch family, plans within the next year to offer WAN interfaces on its NetIron Internet router line aimed at service providers, said officials in San Jose, Calif.

Cisco Systems Inc., also of San Jose, has plans to provide more 10G ports in future versions of its Catalyst 6500 enterprise switch and Catalyst 1200 switch for service providers.

And Nortel Networks Corp. is doubling the switch capacity in its Passport 8600 Routing Switch, for which it offers a single-port 10G blade, to handle a larger number of ports per blade, said officials in Santa Clara.

While vendors push for additional 10G support, enterprises are just beginning to consider ways to deploy the higher bandwidth.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in Berkeley, Calif., for example, this week will demonstrate the use of 10G to run a supercomputing application that simulates the collision of black holes, said Mike Bennett, senior network engineer at the lab.

"I have folks out there in the research community that are ready for the bandwidth," Bennett said. "If I had unlimited resources, I would already be buying it."

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