Speed bump

With the recent ratification of the 10 gigabit Ethernet standard, the road is paved for service providers and enterprises to accelerate toward the higher-bandwidth Ethernet technology. However, issues surrounding existing cabling plants, the much-discussed fibre glut in long-haul networks and little demand for 10Gbps speeds in enterprise environments may slow down 10 gigabit Ethernet’s progress in the market, industry experts say.

Widespread adoption of 10 gigabit Ethernet in the enterprise will not occur before 2004, according to Chris Kozup, senior research analyst at Meta Group in Stamford, Conn. From Kozup’s perspective, 10 gigabit Ethernet is currently a “vendor push”, as opposed to a “user pull.”

“That’s fairly different from previous technologies, specifically gigabit Ethernet, which really did fill a requirement that enterprises had for scalability in the core of the network,” Kozup said. “I would argue that it’s still a year or two out, realistically, before 10 gigabit will be a requirement for most users.”

Kozup also questions whether or not there is any real need at this time for 10 gigabit Ethernet in metropolitan area networks (MANs), viewed by many in the industry as the key market opportunity for the technology.

“We could do with more bandwidth in the last mile, but when you get into the core long-haul of a wide area network, it’s clear there is an abundance of fibre. In fact, most large carriers don’t even use anywhere near the capacity that they have,” Kozup said.


Another barrier to adoption could be the lack of singlemode fibre in many organizations today. Singlemode fibre is required to achieve the longer distances supported by 10 gigabit Ethernet, Kozup explained. “A lot of enterprises out there only have multimode fibre. To support 10 gigabit over distances beyond 300 metres, you do need singlemode fibre,” he said.

Users need to ensure they provision their cabling plants adequately, he advised. “It’s more of an issue for those green-field environments that are just building an infrastructure now to make sure they are pulling adequate singlemode fibre,” he added.

Richard Brand is director of network architecture and applications for Nortel Networks and is the current president of the 10 gigabit Ethernet Alliance. He explained that the 10 gigabit Ethernet “fibre-only” standard includes specifications for seven different fibre types which can be utilized for 10Gbps Ethernet environments. The seven fibre-optic media are: