Even though headlines are screaming about 10 GbE as the interconnect of the future, many enterprises are wondering whether a narrower, and less expensive, switch might be a better tool for here and now.
Clearly, 10 Gb Ethernet is where the vendor community wants to take the enterprise. Following major platform announcements from Cisco, Brocade and Juniper all relying on 10 GbE in one form or another, smaller vendors have been quick to get their own product out the door.
Enterasys Networks, for example, recently launched a new line of 10 GbE edge, distribution and core devices with embedded security and QoS functions.
Still others are eager to upgrade existing server farms to the new standard. A firm called ServerEngines is offering 10 GbE and iSCSI SAN mezzanine cards for the HP BladeSystem c-Class platform. Their aim is to get mid-market enterprises, many of which have only recently upgraded to 1 GbE, to unify their Ethernet and SAN networks so they can scale systems like the SQL and Exchange servers across multiple blades.
That's certainly a valid approach, given that most enterprises will also see improved backup and failover capabilities through virtual machines and other technologies. It is, however, curious that third-party suppliers are pushing 10 GbE when HP itself is emphasizing 10/100 switches in its ProCurve line. Rather than concentrate on increased bandwidth, the new 2610 stackable switch offers perks like better traffic monitoring and VoIP support.
10 GbE is a major step forward in enterprise connectivity, but it won't usher in a new age in IT service delivery all by itself, according to this article by Alacritech's Keith Parker. Only by combining it with iSCSI, server virtualization and TCP Offload will enterprises realize the kind of scalability, performance and reliability to really shake things up.
10 GbE is most certainly a vital tool for those who are ready for it. But enterprise managers will have to determine for themselves if the expense can be justified according to their organizational needs. Media coverage tends to focus on the most cutting edge technologies, but sometimes the more mundane fits better into real-world situations.