New hardware brings 10G LANs closer to reality

With the spate of new 10G gear, analysts say, corporations have more options for alleviating data centre and LAN bottlenecks.

Just as 3Com Corp. and Foundry Networks Inc. made 10G product announcements earlier this month at NetWorld+Interop, several 10G Ethernet adapters for servers, workstations and network-attached storage (NAS) devices are being announced this week by Silicon Graphics Inc. and startup Chelsio Communications Inc.

While the 10G market is still young — products are mostly test toys in high-end research and enterprise networks — some corporations, such as hospitals with digitized radiology images stored on servers or financial firms with compute-intensive applications, already are turning to 10G Ethernet.

Among the recent 10G product news:

– Silicon Graphics is expected to announce next week that it will integrate S2IO’s 10G Xframe adapter into a line of high-end Intel-based servers, NAS devices and high-end workstations. Linux and Windows can run on 10 Gigabit workstations and servers, while the 10G-enabled NAS boxes will run a proprietary Unix operating system.

– Chelsio next week is expected to launch its T110, a 10G adapter that includes TCP/IP offload engine (TOE) technology, which lets TCP/IP processing — normally executed in software on a server processor — run on the server network interface card (NIC). This frees server-processing resources and lets users run more powerful applications on fewer machines.

– Foundry announced an eight-port 10G Ethernet switch, aimed at LAN aggregation layers or for connecting clusters of 10G-enabled servers in a high-performance computing cluster. Foundry’s new switch is an eight-port 10G box aimed at companies with large server clusters or small backbones. The EdgeIron 8X10G includes eight XFP-based 10G Ethernet ports, which can be outfitted with optics for long- or short-haul 10G over single- or multi-mode fiber. Foundry says the Layer 2 switch can process up to 120 million packets per second on each port.

– 3Com released two new 10/100/1000Mbps boxes recently that include 10G expansion slots for uplinking to a 10G core switch. 3Com’s switch is aimed at wiring closets or end-user work groups where high-speed desktops are used and even higher-speed aggregation uplinks are needed. The SuperStack 3 Switch 3870 series includes 24- and 48-port boxes with 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet on all ports. A 10G expansion module is included on the back, and a 40Mbps interconnect for 3Com’s proprietary stacking technology also is included.

3Com’s stacking technology lets up to eight SuperStack 3870s be linked together with a 40G bit/sec backplane. The stack can be managed as one virtual switch, with one IP address. 3Com is touting the switches as a way to plan for future 10G connections to a 10G core. 3Com currently does not have a 10G module for its Switch 7700 core switch.

“These (switch) announcements are indicative of the general trend that 10G is continuing to gain momentum in the industry,” says Max Flisi, an analyst with IDC. “Vendors are recognizing that while not an absolute necessity for customers, (10G) does have a play in certain niche markets.”

Dell’Oro Group Inc. estimates that pricing for 10G Ethernet ports will fall from an industry average of about US$9,000 this year, to about US$1,000 per port by 2007.

Meanwhile, Gartner Inc. says that 10G NIC prices will drop by 50 per cent over the same time, reaching about US$3,000 per adapter by 2007. Analysts predict that the market for 10G products will grow from US$500 million this year to about US$1.6 billion by 2007.

The 3Com SuperStack 3 Switch 3870 48-port switch costs US$6,000, and the 24-port Switch 3870 costs US$4,000. Both boxes are scheduled to ship next month. Foundry’s EdgeIron 8X10G also ships next month, with pricing to be released then.

Silicon Graphics servers, workstations and NAS boxes will be available in the third quarter of this year with pricing to be released later.

The Chelsio 10G NICs with TOE capabilities will be demonstrated this week at the GridToday 2004 trade show in Philadelphia, with pricing and availability to be announced later.

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