Brocade 100 Gigabit Ethernet Adoption Grows

100 Gigabit Ethernet (100 GbE) is no longer something that belongs just in the testing labs of networking vendors, it also belongs in the labs of the biggest research institutions in the U.S.

Brocade (NASDAQ:BRCD) this week announced that the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) is now using 100 GbE delivered via Brocade’s MLXe routers. The deployment includes 56 ports of 100 GbE spanning multiple MLXe router chassis. According to Brocade the HHMI 100 GbE deployment is the largest 100 GbE deployment in a research institution.

From a financial perspective it’s not clear exactly how much the big deployment is worth. Ananda Rajagopal, Senior Director of product management, SP Products for Brocade, told that the value is in the ‘millions.’

“The key thing here is that when customers look to moving to a higher speed technology there is often an efficiency aspect that tends to be overlooked,” Rajagopal said. “When you look at bundling multiple bundles of 10 GbE, no matter how good your load balancing and link aggregation technology is, there is always a level of inefficiency and operational overhead.”

With 100 GbE, the need for 10 GbE link aggregation is reduced, which improves operational efficiency.

In total the HHMI deployment includes over a dozen MLXe routers. Brocade announced the MLXe in September of 2010 as a 100 GbE ready platform. The maximum scalability of an MLXe chassis is 32 ports of 100 GbE.

“But obviously you need to have 10 GbE ports along with 100 GbE, so most customers deploy a mix of 10 GbE and 100 GbE in a single chassis,” Rajagopal said.

When to Consider 100 GbE

HHMI decided that 100 GbE was necessary for them to help grow their network and become more efficient. Rajagopal said that companies need to understand how much their data will grow in the coming years. He noted that organizations need to understand and ask the question of where the absolute threshold is for when they should consider moving from 10 GbE to 100 GbE.

“Our rule of thumb is that if you’re at anywhere from 4 to 5 ports of 10 GbE that are link aggregated today and you’re already seeing the transition to higher amounts of data, perhaps driven by VDI or Big Data, that’s when IT administrators should seriously look at 100 GbE,” Rajagopal said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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