Foundry gets into gigabit copper game

Foundry Networks has jumped into the newly formed gigabit Ethernet over copper market with a suite of gigabit copper switches.

Todd Hanson, an analyst with Dataquest Inc. in San Jose, Calif., said the main challenges for vendors breaking into the gigabit over copper game are getting product to market in a variety of shapes and sizes and creating sustainable interest. He believes Foundry is doing a solid job of trying to meet both criteria.

“In my opinion, they’ve got a jump on enterprise deployment,” he said.

The gigabit over copper 802.3ab IEEE standard was finally ratified this summer.

Marshall Eisenberg, Foundry’s director of product marketing, said gigabit over copper will be popular in smaller buildings that can’t justify a fibre backbone and in environments with power desktop users.

“Where we really see the application is people moving around really high volumes of data,” he said. “People doing chip design, three-dimensional seismographic research and development.”

Another application Eisenberg sees for gigabit copper is connecting high-speed server farms.

“If you wanted to deploy gig there in the past, you had to connect the servers with fibre. Now you don’t need to. You can just replace the NICs.”

Foundry gigabit over copper offerings include:

• the eight-slot FastIron GC Plus II, which can support 64 ports of Category 5 gigabit Ethernet;

• a four-slot FastIron II GC model with two base configurations — one with 24 ports of 1000Base-TX and another with 16 ports of 1000Base-T and 24 ports of 10/100Base-TX — both with one open expansion slot left for a two- or eight-port fibre gigabit Ethernet uplink module, an eight-port gigabit copper blade, or a 24-port 10/100 blade;

• an eight-port 1000Base-T module for the BigIron 4000/8000; and,

• the FastIron II Plus, an eight-slot chassis which can carry 144 ports of 10/100Base-TX and two, four, or eight ports of gigabit fibre with one open expansion slot available for modules with two or eight ports of gigabit fibre, eight ports of gigabit copper, or 24 ports of 10/100Base-TX.

All of the switches ship with Layer 2 capability, but can be upgraded to Layer 3. Eisenberg stressed that Layer 3 upgrades do not require additional modules or daughtercards.

Eisenberg also noted there is one caveat to running gigabit over copper. Unlike Ethernet or fast Ethernet, which require two copper cable pairs, gigabit Ethernet over copper requires all four cable pairs.

Davis Sylvester, manager of information services for Ericsson in Plano, Tex., plans to deploy gigabit Ethernet to the desktop as soon as Foundry’s switches are available.

Sylvester’s users move a lot of 700MB to 800MB CAD files over the network. The fast Ethernet Sylvester currently has deployed at the desktops can’t handle such large files very well.

“It’s very slow,” he said. “We actually have to move the files down to the local machines and let those guys move them back and forth.”

Sylvester, who already has three Foundry BigIron 8000s attached to his fibre backbone, has no concerns about being one of the first to deploy gigabit over copper.

“I’m pretty confident with Foundry’s solutions,” he said. “I’ve had one problem with some code we put on one of the BigIrons and they resolved it in less than eight hours.”

Foundry’s switches will be available Oct. 15. Pricing will begin at: US$41,000 for the FastIron II Plus GC; US$15,000 for the FastIron II GC; US$31,150 for the FastIron II Plus; and the BigIron gigabit over copper modules list at approximately US$1,000 per port.

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