10G Supply Exceeds Demand

Still digesting 4-Gbit/s FC, customers not ready to bite on 10-Gbit/s Ethernet

April 22, 2006

3 Min Read
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Suppliers continue to charge hard on 10-Gbit/s Ethernet equipment, but users are making it abundantly clear they're on a different time table than their vendors.

A slew of recent and upcoming companies target customers most likely to need a high-bandwidth technology, including broadcasters and video production companies. Here's a sampling:

  • Advanced Technology and Systems Co., Ltd. (ADTX), which makes RAID systems, and Apace Systems Corporation, which makes storage systems for the video editing and archiving markets, will demonstrate interoperability of their 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet gear at a National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas next week. (See ADTX, Apace Team Up.)

  • At the same conference, Myricom and Fujitsu will demo Fujitsu's XG700 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switch working with Myricom's Myri-10G 10-Gbit/s NICs (network interface cards). (See Myricom, Fujitsu Push 10-Gig.) Separately, Fujitsu will also be showing 10-Gbit/s chips for ATCA devices to attendees at the Server Blade Summit trade show in Garden City, Calif., next week. (See Fujitsu Features 10-Gig.)

  • Neterion plans to show the broadcasters in Vegas a newsroom system from Thomson Grass Valley linked via its 10-Gbit/s HBAs to IBM servers and an Apple video editing workstation, which in turn will be linked to a 10-Gbit/s switch from Force10. (See Force 10 Fires Up Low Latency Switch.)

Component suppliers are also keeping up the 10-Gbit/s drumbeat. (See iVivity Unveils 10-Gig HBA and NetXen Singles Out 10-Gig.) And there's business activity: This week, SolarFlare announced a merger with Level 5 Networks. (See SolarFlare, Level 5 Team.) The newly formed company, SolarFlare, will focus on 10-Gbit/s Ethernet development. This follows Emulex's agreement to buy Aarohi, in which 10-Gbit/s chips play a part. (See Emulex Buys Aarohi.)

Even with all this stage-setting, users don't seem ready to pony up to 10-Gbit/s Ethernet storage networking. None of the vendors mentioned in this article can produce a single customer to testify to using the new technology.

There appear to be several holdups. Some companies just don't need 10-Gbit/s Ethernet for storage, particularly if their existing network is Fibre Channel. "Requirements drive everything. We don't have the requirement right now," says Harold Shapiro, technology architect at Warner Bros. His group hasn't yet completed planned migration from 2- to 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel, he notes, and still, performance hasn't suffered.But suppliers insist many customers are interested, particularly in vertical markets. "We are anticipating deployment by customers over the next several months," says Jeanclaude Toma, executive VP at Apace Systems. His company's customers include a range of video production and broadcasting technology users, and he says many want faster storage. In post-production video editing, for instance, 10-bit uncompressed footage consumes massive amounts of storage.

Another dealbreaker appears to be lack of interoperable gear. Despite the demonstrations noted above, a lot of vendors, even in the broadcasting market, don't support 10-Gbit/s Ethernet.

"At this point we have had some customer interest but have not come across any enabled broadcast devices (video servers, newsroom systems, etc.) offering this high-speed networking interface," writes Brian Campanotti, the CTO at Front Porch Digital, in an email today. Front Porch Digital offers a range of products that manage archived digital video across a range of devices.

There is also a lack of 10-Gbit/s SAN gear from major players, and some users are concerned about pricing, cabling distances, and other implementation issues. (See 10-Gig IP SANs Hit Bleeding Edge.) The IEEE is set to ratify 10-Gbit/s Ethernet over copper and multimode fiber in June and September, respectively. But the distance maximums will remain 100 meters for copper and 250 meters for fiber.

Until 10-Gbit/s Ethernet gains a toehold among customers, it will remain largely a trade show curiosity. On the other hand, vendors seem confident they can develop a market once interest tips into trialing.It all adds up to more waiting, despite the gushing from an ever wider range of suppliers.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Aarohi Inc.

  • Advanced Technology and Systems Co. Ltd.

  • Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX)

  • Front Porch Digital Inc.

  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE)

  • Level 5 Networks Inc.

  • SolarFlare Communications Inc.

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