A Rebounding Ethernet Market and a Whole Lot More

Arthur Cole

All indications are that 2010 will be a good year for the enterprise Ethernet industry.

Coming off the doldrums of a year ago, just about any rise in switch and adapter deployments is good news. But the recent numbers reflected in surveys from market analysts like Infonetics Research seem to indicate more than just a rebound from tough economic conditions. This rally portends a true rebirth of enterprise networking environments marked by high-speed converged infrastructures that, ideally, should put everything from storage and application data to voice, video and mobile services on a single over-arching network.

Naturally, this kind of wholesale upgrade will have ripple effects across the entire enterprise. As HP ProCurve's Lorna Hardie points out, preparing a unified network means a whole lot more than just plugging in a CNA and some 10 GbE switches. Upgrades will be required to gateways and security systems, traffic management, quality-of-service policies and procedures, not to mention existing single-service networks, which aren't likely to simply be scrapped overnight.

That question of what to do with legacy infrastructure is likely to be a key concern going forward, according to Enterprise Storage Forum's Jennifer L. Schiff, particularly when it comes to tried-and-true architectures like iSCSI and NAS. Fortunately, with an underlying 10 GbE network, most existing systems should find a comfortable home with both standard Ethernet and Fibre Channel over Ethernet sharing space in the new wider-bandwidth environment. In that way, you gain a single, unified network that can then extend the optimal storage environment according to application and user needs.

Making sure that the 10 GbE infrastructure can handle all that data will be a top priority going forward. The newest systems on the market stress both low power and low latency to ensure mission-critical data does not get lost in the shuffle. Solarflare, for instance, has matched its new Solarstorm SFN5122F dual-port server adapter with the OpenOnload acceleration system, which it says not only keeps up with the latest switch products from Cisco, Brocade and others, but also the upcoming generation of servers powered by new multicores from AMD and Intel.

If anything, then, the recession served as a rest period, allowing enterprises to figure out exactly how they intend to streamline their network architectures. Now that those plans are taking shape, steadily improving cash flows should kick convergence into high gear.

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