10G Ethernet Aims for the Enterprise

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For Corey Corrick, the allure of 10G Ethernet is great. Corrick is hoping to use powerhouse speeds to move files across his large enterprise network.

''Right now, we store everything in our SAN,'' says Corrick, technology services manager at Guidestone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas. ''We move some pretty big files around and those are only going to get bigger and bigger, so any more bandwidth we can get we'd be better off.''

Corrick notes he is looking to roll out 10G Ethernet within three years.

''That's when I think the prices will start coming down,'' he says. Today he sees costs at about five times his current Gigabit Ethernet infrastructure. For instance, he says he priced a Gigabit Ethernet card at $600, while the 10G Ethernet card was $3,000.

While he admits that prices are still higher for 10G Ethernet infrastructure, John Yen, senior manager of switching product marketing at Cisco Systems, Inc. in San Jose, Calif., says there are many reasons to make the move.

One driver for the upgrade to 10G Ethernet, which operates over fiber, is the increase in gigabit speeds to the desktop, Yen says. The applications that gigabit to the desktop enables, such as back-ups, video-on-demand, large e-mail attachments and network-enabled file sharing, call for bigger pipes.

''To scale proportionally with the rest of your network, you need to move to 10G Ethernet,'' he says

Kevin Tolly, founder of testing firm The Tolly Group in Boca Raton, Fla., says 10G Ethernet started out in the high-speed computing and clustering arena, but is quickly becoming a viable option in the enterprise for data centers, core infrastructure and even uplinks from wiring closets.

''For the enterprise, the benefit of bigger bandwidth comes when you're shoveling data from one point to another on an ad-hoc basis,'' he says.

As an example, he points to financial services firms, like Guidestone, that want to crunch economic data from each quarter. ''Client stations and second-tier servers hold hundreds of gigabytes of data, so there's no bottleneck there. The network interface cards can handle the load so that's not a problem. So you need an uplink like 10G Ethernet that can support these tasks,'' Tolly says.

In enterprises today, Tolly says he sees Gigabit Ethernet uplinks being shared among 24, 48 or 92 users. ''I hope that all those folks aren't doing video streaming or CAD/CAM design because one user could congest the entire uplink,'' he says.

He points to health care as an example of an industry that could use 10G Ethernet networking. If a person decides they need to replicate a series of digitized x-rays for research purposes, they could take up 80 percent of the uplink for hours, Tolly says. ''The remaining users would have to share 200M bit/sec of the Gigabit Ethernet uplink and that's when 10G Ethernet starts to look good,'' he adds.

Corrick agrees and is finding himself in a similar situation.

''Our applications are talking more and more to each other and sharing a lot more data in real time. Today, Gigabit Ethernet meets our need, but in two to three years, that will change,'' he says.

But hospitals and financial services are not the only industries that are dipping into the 10G Ethernet networking pool.

Val Oliva, product line manager for Foundry Networks, Inc. in San Jose, Calif., says the entertainment industry is a big fan of the bandwidth boost.

''Of all the verticals, the entertainment industry is the most predominant in its use of 10G Ethernet. They use it for their graphics work and their movie editing,'' he says.

Oliva says universities also are checking out the technology, but are hesitant to deploy it campus-wide. ''They use 10G for their researchers and administration, but not typically for students,'' he explains. ''They limit the expansion of 10G Ethernet in the data center and across campus because they are price-sensitive and bandwidth-sensitive. If you give students that much bandwidth, they'll hog it.''

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