10 GbE Gaining Mass Appeal


10 GbE is well on the way to becoming a mainstream technology, according to the latest research, and the growing prevalence of new, lower-cost solutions that take advantage of existing copper infrastructures is likely to propel the technology even further.


The Dell'Oro groups reports that 10 GbE reached two important milestones in the second quarter: 250,000 port shipments and revenues topping $600 million. The company reports that demand is strongly driven by the need for consolidated voice, data and security functions over both wired and wireless networks, as well as the rise of unified fabrics in both storage and overall datacenter network architectures.


The company says to be on the look-out for more mergers like the recent Brocade/Foundry deal as vendors look to combine their respective strengths in 10 Gbps technology.


Advances in switching technology are happening largely on the chip level, with new generations of physical layers (PHYs) offering improved performance at lower cost, and without forcing datacenters to rewire their enterprises with fiber.


Teranetics, for example, recently added the TN2022 chipset to its line-up, which not only supports copper infrastructures, but provides the same 48-port density as earlier 1 GbE designs. The device supports cable lengths up to 100 meters and offers multi-rate capability down to 100 Mbps, even while cutting power consumption in half to about 6 watts per port.


NetXen is setting its sights on mixed copper/fiber environments with what it calls FlexLOM (LAN on Motherboard) technology. The system uses a set of add-on modules to its 1 GbE device to support 10G optical and copper across multiple server designs, including SFP+, CX-4 and 10 GBase-T. One of the first devices in the program is the NX3031, which churns out 22 Gbps bi-directional and 14 Gbps receive throughput for 1,500-byte packets using the PCIe 2.0 bus.


Another name to look for is Solarflare, which recently unveiled the 10Xpress SFT9001 PHY. The unit is built on the 65 nm process and supports 10 GBase-T over 100 meters on copper using techniques like triple-speed auto-negotiation across 10 Gbase-T, 1000Base-T and 100Base-TX formats. The device normally operates at 6 watts, but can scale down to several hundred milliwatts when internal diagnostics indicate light data loads.


The main gripe about 10 GbE so far has been the cost. Many observers have wondered whether it makes sense to upgrade both the switch network and the wiring itself to accommodate 10G connectivity when both Fibre Channel and Infiniband offer more robust service at comparable costs. Lowering 10 GbE's cost and simplifying its integration into existing networks are major steps forward that very likely will cause many datacenters to place their fabrics on the Ethernet.