Testing 10Gig Ethernet switches

Mixed results: Only Force10 delivers 10G bit/sec throughput, but all switches boast impressive features.

In Network World's first hands-on assessment of the new 10G Ethernet switches, we put boxes from five major vendors through a comprehensive set of performance tests - both 1 and 10 Gigabit flavors of Ethernet. Avaya, Force10 Networks, Foundry Networks, HP and Nortel accepted our challenge.

Lab tests prove that most first-generation 10G Ethernet switches don't deliver anywhere close to 10 gigabits of throughput. But the latest backbone switches  do deliver more bandwidth than earlier gear that used link aggregation, and they do a better job of quality-of-service enforcement.

In Network World's first hands-on assessment of the new 10G Ethernet switches, we put boxes from five major vendors through a comprehensive set of performance tests - both 1 and 10 Gigabit flavors of Ethernet. AvayaForce10 NetworksFoundry NetworksHP and Nortel accepted our challenge. Other major players went missing, citing various reasons (see "No shows" ).


QoS sanity check

No shows

10 Gigabit switches feature list (Excel)

Forum: Your thoughts on the tests

How we did it

NetResults

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Hardware gremlins plagued Nortel's devices, and we couldn't obtain valid results. For the remaining players, the results offer limited encouragement:

•  Force10's E1200 delivers true 10G bit/sec throughput with any frame size, a performance that earned it the Network World Blue Ribbon award.

•  Foundry's FastIron 400 and HP's ProCurve Routing Switch 9300m series (which HP buys from Foundry) achieved fast failover times.

•  Avaya's Cajun P882 MultiService Switch kept jitter to a minimum and dropped no high-priority packets in our QoS tests.

But, when all is said and done, none of these first-generation devices represent the perfect switch. Force10's E1200 aced the throughput tests, but its delay and jitter numbers are far higher than they should be. As for the others, they won't really be true 10 Gigabit devices until they get capacity upgrades.

While the 10 Gigabit performance results are disappointing, it's important to put those numbers in context. Few, if any, users are planning pure 10G Ethernet networks, so these devices support a variety of interfaces and other features useful for enterprise core networking, such as support for highly redundant components and multiple device management methods (see full feature listing - Excel file ). It's important to note that these switches did a pretty good job of handling tasks not directly related to 10G Ethernet, such as failover and QoS  enforcement.

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