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Optical/IP

Components Fuel 10G Ethernet Takeoff

Lower costs and lower power requirements in components have primed 10-Gbit/s Ethernet to begin the ramp-up the industry has been waiting for, according to a new report from Heavy Reading, Light Reading's research division.

The report -- "10-Gbit/s Ethernet Components: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis" -- surveys the landscape of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet from the component and module level. It lists 44 vendors and compares more than 200 of their products while sorting out the progress of the Xenpak, XPAK, X2, and XFP multisource agreements (MSAs).

Even as Ethernet expands into carrier networks, its success still keys off its enterprise deployment, and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet is only now reaching prices where the enterprise can seriously take notice.

Data from Synergy Research Group Inc. placed 10-Gbit/s Ethernet at more than $23,000 per port as late as September 2003, but plenty has happened since. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) introduced a card that brought chassis prices to less than $7,000 per port, while Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) and Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) produced smaller switches with prices under $4,000 per port. (See Cisco Bombs 10-GigE Pricing and 10-GigE Price Drops Continue.)

The falling prices result from improvements in components, a trend that's happened in previous Ethernet generations and was well anticipated for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet.

"10GE PHY [physical-layer] devices now in production are less than one quarter of the price of first-generation 10GE PHY components. The power required by a typical PHY is down from 3 W to 1.5 W, with 0.8 W devices now sampling," writes analyst Simon Stanley in the report.

Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), JDS Uniphase Corp. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU), and Opnext Inc. offer the widest range of transponders, according to the report. Among the chip vendors, Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) has the widest portfolio of PHYs, with Intel, Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL), and Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. (Nasdaq: VTSS) close behind.

The growth of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet will get another adrenaline shot when the technology becomes available on Category 5 enhanced copper cabling, which is readily available in many enterprises. The 10GBase-T standard won't arrive for two years, but past "Base-T" versions of Ethernet have been the catalysts for massive deployment (see 10-GigE Copper Heats Up).

The 63-page Heavy Reading report, priced at $3,495, lists more than 200 transponder and transceiver products and also breaks down PHY components by module type. The report's coverage includes the 300-pin MSA, which preceded Xenpak and remains the most widely installed 10-Gbit/s Ethernet interface.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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