Will Price Drops Drive 10-GbE to Adoption? - Page 2

As 10-Gigabit Ethernet products steadily drop in price, some enterprises are seduced by the notion of installing the technology as a hedge against future bandwidth needs while other companies wait for a 'killer app' to spur adoption.

 By Kevin Reichard
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Eyeing the Future
All in all, only 46 percent of respondents said their organizations had implemented Gigabit Ethernet (almost all on the enterprise level), and they did so as part of a plan for to ensure adequate bandwidth in the future, not to fill current needs, a move that's been driven by rapid dropping prices in the Gigabit Ethernet space.

“ Most desktop users just aren't set up to make use of Gigabit Ethernet technology — much less 10-Gigabit Ethernet technology — which has left the technology in the server room.”

These lowered prices led to double-digit increases in Gigabit Ethernet shipments and an almost 300 percent increase in 10-Gigabit Ethernet shipments in the fourth quarter of 2004, according In-Stat/MDR research. These numbers shows the market shifting from Fast Ethernet to Gigabit Ethernet and 10-Gigabit Ethernet at a time when the overall Ethernet switch market grew only moderately.

In Search of the Killer App
The respondents to the In-Stat/MDR survey echoed what is widely heard in the enterprise space: that without a so-called "killer app" — an compelling application that totally replies on Gigabit Ethernet technology &3151; there just isn't a compelling reason to adopt it immediately. Most desktop users just aren't set up to make use of Gigabit Ethernet technology — much less 10-Gigabit Ethernet technology — which has left the technology in the server room.

One potential killer app: clustered computing, a technology that really is still in its infancy. With clustered computing, a set of computers are treated as one computing whole, with tasks broken down among the machines. In theory, this should enable greatly enhanced performance for computing-intensive tasks and allow cheap workstations and servers to reach supercomputer-like performance. And while clustering technology has come a long way in the last few years, technology like 10-Gigabit Ethernet could enhance computing speed by allowing faster communications between cluster nodes. In this respect 10-Gigabit Ethernet is fighting it out with InfiniBand for high-speed communication.

Another potential killer app: networked storage, where Fibre Channel is widely used. While most technology experts don't consider 10-Gigabit Ethernet to be the perfect solution in a storage situation, it does have the advantage of being able to be deployed in other situations, giving enterprises a way to standardize on a single technology instead of using different technologies for different tasks.

Pricing and Standards Are Key
Still, chances are good that price will continue to drive the market, as well as ease of adoption. One factor: a new 10-Gigabit Ethernet specification, 10GBase-CX4, allowing for 10-GigE data to be transmitted over or four twin-axial copper cable pairs, the same as Fibre Channel and InfiniBand. It's still fairly new, but it's been ratified by the IEEE. And while it's not perfect (it doesn't run over twisted-pair cabling and it doesn't support long-distance throughput) it still would be cheaper to implement than optical networking. But the final roadblock to adoption may be when the IEEE completes a 10GBase-T standard, which could be used over twisted-pair copper cables — a standard that is still several years down the road.

This article was originally published on Apr 27, 2004
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