Order of Magnitude

Storage exploits Ethernet's power of 10

November 30, 2005

2 Min Read
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As you've clicked your way across Byte and Switch in the last few months, you'd have been hard pressed to miss the rising profile of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet.

Some recent examples: Bechtel National is putting 10-Gbit/s Ethernet to good use as the storage networking platform for its data repository in southern Washington state. (See Bechtel National.) Just yesterday, our sister publication Light Reading reported Alcatel adding to its Omniswitch Ethernet line as the vendor tries to keep pace with Foundry, Force 10, and others. (See Alcatel Ups 10GigE Density.)

It wasn't that long ago that Fibre Channel stalwarts like Brocade dismissed Ethernet's prospects in the storage equation as so much over-reaching. They argued Ethernet may be great for workgroup connectivity but not for the high-performance, high-availability requirements of data center storage installations. And they may still be right about that I'll leave that boasting fest to the marketers and let potential customers hash it out in laboratory taste tests.

But there's something that 10-Gbit/s Ethernet has that FC doesn't – affordability. And as Bechtel and other users are discovering, you don't need FC reliability (and associated price) for all your storage applications. The beauty of storage networking is that storage is no longer just about the data center. The FC shoe doesn't fit everyone, nor should it.

So we're starting to see more 10-Gbit/s silicon and card options. (See Force10 Buys MetaNetworks, Fulcrum Launches Chip, and Chelsio Delivers Card.) This is good for business: Ancillary equipment and greater port densities fuel competition and, with any luck, price wars.Small wonder, for instance, that next-gen Fibre Channel with its 4-Gbit/s performance won't cost you any more than you would have paid for its 2-Gbit/s predecessor. One- and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet are keeping prices in check.

How does your organization greet the advent of these emerging Ethernet exponents for storage needs? How do you resolve the tension between lower prices and the overhead associated with managing yet another network? Let us know, when you have a second. We'd like to believe all the buzz about 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, but real, live customer implementations tell us a lot more than the headlines ever can.

— Terry Sweeney, Editor in Chief, Byte and Switch

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