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You Still Have Time To Catch Up With 10GbE

We're all hurtling toward the next generation network in the next few years, and this is reflected in vendor marketing. But IT lives in the moment. Before we start looking to the future, let's spend a little time reviewing where we are. I took a quick sample of 109 analytics engagements over the past four months and decided to find out where those organizations are on this path to the future. Specifically, I wanted to see if the drive to 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) is as pervasive as it would seem from listening to vendors such as Cisco, Brocade and HP.  

First, let me say that based on our analytics, if you aren't planning for more bandwidth in your enterprise, then you should be. You will need this bandwidth to support the instantaneous traffic loads brought on by Desktop and HD Video, VDI, and even 802.11n. You had that built-in limit of 54 Mbps in 802.11a/b/g (under that, normally), but this is going away with 802.11n. Soon, those wireless clients will be pushing the same loads as many of their wired cousins. 
portusage.jpgFrom our analysis, most networks aren't moving as quickly as you might think to 10GbE or even putting 1GbE to all of their desktops. The 109 networks reviewed for this blog had a total of 247,575 IP hosts (including the network equipment itself), or 2,271 per typical network.  That may be slightly larger or smaller than your organization, but regardless, they are not small environments. The overall network port-speed breakout looks like this:  250,039 FastEthernet (10/100);  135,870 GbE (10/100/1000 mostly); and, drum roll please....871 10Gb Ethernet ports. 

There are several things that you can see in these numbers. First, do some quick math and you will find that they are over-"ported" by a ratio of about 1.56:1. You could call it "port sprawl" and it's inefficient. (I am claiming this term right now! Unless someone else has already it, in which case I apologize and offer my congratulations.) Port sprawl wastes Capital Expenditures (CapEx) as well as power, and is also a security vulnerability with empty ports that are probably unwatched. As for the 10GbE saturation, it is primarily only in cores of the largest of these environments. In fact, only 34 of the 109 networks included in this picture  have any 10GbE at all. Go a little deeper and you will see that only 396 of the 871 10GbE ports are actually active. That's only 45 percent. Overall, then, "in-use" 10GbE ports account for only 0.07 percent of enterprise Ethernet in this 109 company sample.  

If you are wondering how far behind you are, the answer is that you are not probably as far behind your peers as you think. Do these numbers mean that 10GbE is not going to be pervasive in the future? Absolutely not.  People do need the added bandwidth and capacity that 10GbE provides, but the adoption is much slower than you would think.