Enterprises pushing 10GigE to edge

Enterprises are propelling 10-Gigabit Ethernet as far to the network edge as possible with Gigabit Ethernet handling bandwidth chores to the desktop. Switches from Cisco Systems, Force10 Networks, and Foundry Networks are expanding the reach of 10GigE even farther into the enterprise to satisfy such requirements.

Datacenter consolidation, grid and cluster computing, and the proliferation of bandwidth-intensive services are driving the adoption of 10GigE technology into new industries and applications, as prices for the technology drop precipitously.

That, in turn, is fueling demand for new products. Cisco took a soup-to-nuts approach for its new offerings. The company introduced high-end Cisco Catalyst 4500 and 6500 Series Supervisor Engines with enhanced security, availability, and integrated 10GigE and/or GigE uplinks, as well as a phone with GigE capabilities.

"Companies are pushing high-speed networking to the edge, and our new products are designed to accomplish that goal at a reasonable price," said Jack McCool, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Gigabit Ethernet switching unit.

That is the case at Clarian Health, which tested Cisco's 4500 Series Supervisor Engine. "We look at 10GigE as a way for us to connect our imaging areas together because they have the highest bandwidth requirements," said Tom Jones, technology architect at Clarian Health.

The new products from Cisco show that more capacity is coming to the network edge, as well as more intelligence, said Zeus Kerraval, network analyst at The Yankee Group. Kerraval said the Gigabit Ethernet phone from Cisco demonstrates how far enterprises are extending GigE capabilities.

"It allows a PC to plug in to the phone and access high bandwidth with no degradation," Kerraval said.

IT departments are already deploying 10GigE in backbone connections. With GigE connections already in the enterprise, Kerraval expects 10GigE to be deployed into server farms and campuswide environments. To meet these requirements, vendors are developing high-end enterprise switch routers, NICs, and server adapter cards to suit these higher speeds. The bandwidth can be used to provide new audio and video services and faster, more reliable database backup and disaster recovery.

Sales of 10GigE switches have been increasing as prices have fallen for the products. The Dell'Oro Group expects the 10GigE market to expand from US$358.2 million this year to US$2 billion in 2008. Prices on 10GigE have fallen dramatically, from US$16,000 per port a year ago to US$8,399 today, according to Dell'Oro.

Other companies have also recently announced 10GigE products. Foundry Networks detailed an eight-port GigE module for its BigIron MG8 switch designed for high-density, bandwidth-intensive enterprises and service providers. Force10 Networks recently introduced the TeraScale E-Series family of switches and routers that supports 56 10GigE and 672 GigE ports in a single chassis.

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