Optical/IP Networks

10-Gigabit Ethernet

Ten-Gigabit Ethernet has been developed to support a wide range of applications – from the enterprise network, through the edge and metro, into the wide area.

The Enterprise: Data Centers and Backbones

The figure above shows 10-Gigabit Ethernet in an enterprise network. Ten-Gig Ethernet is used for the enterprise backbone, both within a campus and between campuses, and to connect the server farm in the corporate data center.

The hottest market today for 10-Gigabit Ethernet is in the data center. The performance of servers has been increasing significantly with clock rates up to 3 GHz and faster storage technology. To move data in and out of these high-performance servers, Gigabit Ethernet network interface cards (NICs) are being fitted as standard. By moving to these high-performance servers and connecting them together with 10-Gigabit Ethernet, companies can consolidate their file servers into a small number of high-capacity data centers. This consolidation can yield significant cost savings and higher system throughput. The introduction of a 10-Gigabit Ethernet NIC from Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) will further extend the benefits of 10-Gig Ethernet in this application.

The biggest market in the future for 10-Gigabit Ethernet is likely to be in the corporate backbone. The cost of Gigabit Ethernet has dropped significantly over the last 12 months, and most 10/100-Ethernet workgroup switches now have Gigabit uplinks. High-end PCs are now becoming available with integrated Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. The range of 5 kilometers limited the use of Gigabit Ethernet between campuses. With 10-Gig Ethernet transponders capable of up to 40 km, the range is no longer an issue for Ethernet and this market.

The Metro: Lighting Up the Fiber

There is a major shift in the access market away from TDM towards 10/100 Ethernet, and even Gigabit Ethernet, for business connectivity. This is opening up new demand for Ethernet in the metro. The main deployment so far has been in the Asia/Pacific region; however it is likely that this will grow in the U.S. and Europe during next year.

Using existing dark fiber, service providers can extend their Gigabit Ethernet networks into the metro edge. As demand grows, the bandwidth through a single fiber is restricted to one gigabit, unless expensive DWDM equipment is used to multiplex multiple gigabit feeds. By using 10-Gigabit Ethernet, this multigigabit bandwidth can be achieved at significantly lower cost.

In the metro area, 10-Gigabit Ethernet can be deployed in either a star or ring topology. Unlike Resilient Packet Ring (RPR), these networks use the standard Ethernet MAC protocol. The latest 10-Gigabit Ethernet metro switches can provide network reliability similar to those based on Sonet/SDH rings.

“At Foundry Networks we support the Metro Ring Protocol (MRP), which is designed to work with standards based on 10-Gigabit Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet and offers sub-second protection,” says Chandra Kopparapu, director of product marketing at Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY).

The WAN: Limited Deployment... So Far

Ten-Gigabit Ethernet has been designed to support the wide-area network with WAN-specific physical layers. The combination of a very significant installed base of Sonet/SDH and the lack of major infrastructure investment by carriers since its introduction has limited the deployment of 10-Gig Ethernet in the WAN.

One important application for 10-Gigabit Ethernet in the WAN is grid computing – the subject of a Light Reading Webinar in February 2003. Huge server farms spread across multiple locations across the wide area are interconnected using Gigabit and 10-Gigabit Ethernet to form massive virtual supercomputers. One example of grid computing is the TeraGrid project launched by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in August 2001.

Storage: Fibre Channel or iSCSI

The storage market is seen as a likely killer application for 10-Gigabit Ethernet. The ratification of the iSCSI standard last month by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is key to supporting storage services over IP and 10-Gigabit Ethernet (see iSCSI Gets Go-Ahead). Most storage networks today are based on dedicated storage technologies such as Fibre Channel, though there are already significant deployments of 10-Gig Ethernet in the data center.

“We see demand for 10-Gigabit Ethernet in storage applications that are based on IP, not necessarily iSCSI at the moment,” notes Foundry’s Kopparapu.

For the next-generation 10-Gigabit storage network there is now a choice. On the one hand, there is 10-Gigabit Fibre Channel; on the other, there is iSCSI running over 10-Gigabit Ethernet. Fibre Channel is a well understood technology for this application. However, 10-Gig Ethernet and iSCSI could bring significant cost savings – both through less costly equipment and the integration of storage and corporate networks.

“People are hanging on to their SANS right now. It is technology they are comfortable with,” says Rob Quiros, director of product marketing at Force10 Networks Inc. “People are essentially running two parallel networks. They are running their server farms with Gig Ethernet or 10-Gigabit Ethernet connecting out to the LAN or the metro area; and they are using SAN and Fiber Channel on the back end to connect to the storage. Ten-Gigabit Ethernet gives them the ability to collapse these two networks into one. That is when the performance is going to be crucial.”

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