SMC to bring out 10G switch for copper networks

SMC Networks will start the new year off by launching what it says will be the industry’s first multi-port combination 10GBaseT- and 10G Fiber XPF network switch.

The US$30,000 SMC8724-10-BT TigerSwitch 10G is aimed at small and medium business with specialized needs as well as enterprises that want to protect their network investment, said Iain Kenney, the company’s director of worldwide product marketing.

“Clearly there are large numbers of customers with fiber (cabling) in their data centres and who want to stay with that,” he said in an interview. However, there are also organizations with copper wiring that want 10Gigabit Ethernet technology that fear the unknowns, or expense, of putting in Category 6A fiber optic cabling. The 8724 offers them the ability to keep their cabling but get 10G speeds, he said.

The switch has 20 10GBase-T ports and four XFP ports.

“Our eight-port XFP product has been very popular,” Kenney said, “but people have been asking us for more ports.”

It uses Solarflare’s 10Xpresss PHY and switching silicon from Fulcrum Microsystems.

In addition, to help customers already using SMC’s 8800 family (8824M and 8848) of Gigabit switches upgrade, the company will offer an uplink module giving them the option of doing aggregations of their edge connections with the 8724. These units have a tray that can take XPF connections. This will be enhanced to take 10GBase-T.

The 8724 switch will be available in January, while the 8800 upgrades – expected to cost around US$700 – will be out in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, SMC will continue to offer 10G Ethernet NIC cards, a market Kenney said many competitors have dropped out of. “We believe offering a complete [10G] solution makes sense for our customers,” he said.

Nik Simpson, a research analyst in the Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group’s data centre strategies unit, said the new switch may help breech one of the barriers to 10G Ethernet adoption, the cabling rewiring problem. The 8724 switch can use Category 5 copper cabling “over reasonable-length runs,” he said. “That suddenly makes it [10G Ethernet] a more attractive proposition for a lot of places because they don’t have to upgrade the wiring.

“The cost is a little high,” he said of the 8724. He also believes 24 ports is small by enterprise standards. But “it’s a good stake in the ground. It’s an important step in bringing 10Gig Ethernet to a mass market.”

“It’s still early days for adoption of 10Gig Ethernet, but I think one of the key developments will be to use existing wiring infrastructure,” he said.

Most organizations have adopted Gigabit Ethernet, but because of pricing 10G has yet to spread, he said, and it won’t until it becomes a commodity. “But it will be within two to three years.”

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