Virtualization and data center consolidation is a double-edged sword for network managers -- they lower costs and improve efficiency but require more powerful networks. This demand for more powerful networks is the driving force behind the accelerated deployment of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) switches in the core. By 2012, half of all data centers will have 10 Gigabit Ethernet in their cores, according to a recent survey.
"As [enterprises] converge more and more stuff in a smaller and smaller amount of space, the need to push bits faster through the core just becomes inevitable," said John Burke, a principal research analyst at Nemertes Research, who recently authored his firm's Data Center Computing, Storage and Networking 2009 Benchmark Summary.
Over the next two years, 49.2% of organizations will use 10 Gigabit Ethernet in network cores, up from 34.4% in 2009, according to Burke, driven in part by the "high-density endpoints" that virtual machines create.
Meanwhile, dense storage networks are also relying increasingly on Ethernet rather than Fibre Channel -- driven by growing use of the iSCSI protocol -- putting further strain on legacy Gigabit backbones, Burke said.
As a result, he said, 25.4% of organizations use 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches for networked storage now, with 37.3% expected to deploy it within the next two years.
"We see upwards of a quarter of the companies we talk to say they're planning on having a converged data center network -- everything running one kind of network -- by 2012," he said. "Data center densities are going to continue to increase, and 10-gig deployments are a reflection of that."
10 Gigabit Ethernet switches appeal to newly built data centers
The past year saw more very large enterprises (62.5%) adopt 10 Gigabit Ethernet in the network core than the three other company sizes surveyed -- small (23.1%), midsized (37.5%) and large (40%).
But over the next two years, it will be the smallest companies (19.2%) that lead the way with the most 10 GbE deployments in the core, as compared with their midsized (12.5%), large (10%) and very large (0%) counterparts. The positioning is not surprising, Burke said, as the smallest companies have the most room to grow in this respect.
"[Larger enterprises] say they're sticking with the Fibre Channel infrastructure until it cannot perform to their requirements or at least until their present investment in the infrastructure has run its lifecycle," Burke said. "They don't see a need to rip and replace."
But small companies and those building out new data centers have much less baggage going in and more reason to turn to 10 Gigabit Ethernet, he said.
"With small companies, they're less likely to have the performance demands that iSCSI may be incapable of meeting … and they don't have a big sunk investment in place in Fibre Channel," Burke said. "It's also very attractive to folks who are starting from scratch building out a data center -- and who don't have an investment in Fibre Channel -- to look at 10-gig as the everything network."
Rick Drescher, director of technical services at Studley Inc., a real estate services firm based in New York City, said he has been binding multi-gig lines together to meet the network demands of users in the company's headquarters and 19 branch offices.
But at the end of April, the firm will be moving into a posh new 62,000 square-foot Park Avenue office -- nearly twice as large as its current suite -- and will be coming out of the gate with Cisco Systems' Catalyst 4507R 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches in the core, Drescher said.
"Since the footprint of the floor is so large, we ended up having to have two wiring closets," he said. "And since we're doing gig to the desktop and we're doing a new Cisco wireless [802.11]n system … we need the backhaul basically to get all that bandwidth back to the core."
Eventually, Drescher added, he will use the switches for 10 GbE iSCSI for his VMware storage.
The cost savings are negligible, given the costs of 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches and fiber, he said. But the softer savings are in the simplified deployment and maintenance.
"We end up using less fiber," Drescher said. "It's simpler by design."
He's not the only one who feels that way. Network administrators who have made do by aggregating Gigabit Ethernet links will find that migrating to 10 Gigabit Ethernet is a lot less hassle, Burke said.
"It's not going to be a big life-changing event," he said … "[but] it should make life easier for folks who have been pushing the limits of their connectivity."
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer