10 Gigabit Ethernet Not Without Challenges

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IT managers who are resting easy because of the deployment of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) infrastructure must recognize that even this level of bandwidth doesn't automatically solve all their problems.


This story at InternetNews -- which reports on new products from Netscout and WildPackets -- makes the point that problems can crop up even when total throughput is high. No matter how much bandwidth is available, it's vital to proactively manage the network. A VoIP packet, for instance, that gets stuck in the slow lane behind an e-mail packet may not arrive in time to take up its place in the call. This type of problem can occur no matter what the total bandwidth of the network.


The piece says nGenius K2 uses the Sniffer technology acquired in Netscout's acquisition of Network General last year. K2 goes beyond incident management to offer performance management across the network, the story says. WildPackets soon will introduce Watchpoint, which collects data from multiple sources and creates an enterprise-wide view from one dashboard.


Problems that outsiders would be unlikely to think of crop up when speeds increase greatly. McAfee recently introduced its new M-8000 Network Security Platform. The vast increase in speed of 10 Gbps networks makes it impossible for intrusion prevention systems to keep up. Previously, organizations dealt with the issue by load-balancing among several devices. This was cumbersome and wasted power. The M-8000 is based on a chip architecture that enables the job to be done in one box.


10 Gbps networking is expanding everywhere, including storage networking. Earlier this month, nine companies, led by Nimbus Data Systems, formed the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Storage Alliance. (The other companies are Arastra, Force10, Fujitsu, Fulcrum, Microsoft, Mellanox, Neterion and NetXen.) Data Storage Connection reports that the demand for such fast storage networking has been apparent for some time. The new twist is using Ethernet -- not Fibre Channel -- as the networking protocol.


The piece reports that the new trade group says 10 Gigabit Ethernet storage is 30 percent to 75 percent less expensive than 4 Gigabit per second Fibre Channel. Cisco has introduced products that use 10 Gbps Ethernet storage and is advocating merging storage and server networks into single "data center network." The story points out that Cisco is not part of the new alliance, but doesn't say why.


Clearly, decision-makers must become conversant with 10 GbE. This is a good Intel glossary that includes definitions of 10 Gigabit Ethernet itself (formally known as IEEE 802.x); 10GBast-T (IEEE 802.3an); 10Gbase-KX4 (IEEE 802.3ap); 10GBase-SR (IEEE 802.3ae); 10GBase-LR (IEEE 802.3ae, Clause 49); 10GBase-LRM (IEEE 802.3aq); 10GBase-CX4 (IEEE 802.3ak) and other arcane add-ons.


All these standards leave the reader to wonder whether the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers thinks it really is needed or simply has a sense of humor ("Clause 49"?) and is playing on technologists' known penchant for acronyms. The author apparently thought the same thing. He provides reinforcement that all of the various subsidiary standards indeed do serve important roles.