High-speed Ethernet bargains help meet data center needs

Cisco, Juniper, Arista, and HPE are all vying to sell more enterprise data-center high-speed Ethernet, which is needed to handle traffic generated by smarter applications, IoT devices, and video.

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High-speed Ethernet is quickly becoming the networking norm as customer data-center servers grow to handle a ton of traffic from new, smarter applications, IoT devices, video and more.

According to IDC in the first quarter of 2018 overall 100Gb Ethernet revenue increased 83.8% year-over-year to $742.5 million and port shipments grew 117.7% year-over-year in the first quarter of this year. Researchers at Dell’Oro Group said they expect to see somewhere near 12 million 100G Ethernet ports ship this year compared to about 1 million 100G Ethernet ports shipped in 2016.

The need for increased data-center speeds is being driven by many things – the tremendous growth of hyperscale networks from players like Google, Amazon and Facebook, but also by the price/performance of 100G products, said Sameh Boujelbene, senior director at Dell’Oro Group.

A recent study from PwC went a bit further in explaining how and why the network might need more speed. “Workloads are becoming less monolithic as companies branch away from the traditional enterprise data center. They are becoming more distributed, more mobile, and more like the workloads typically associated with hyperscale environments,” PwC wrote.  “…Almost all major workloads shifting from on-premises to public cloud in the next 1-3 years. Applications will be more tied to the network, and the network will become more critical given the distribution/dynamism of the workloads.”

The requirement for more high-speed ports and more data being driven from the dense edges of the network is driving the upgrade of the backbone, said Roland Acra, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Data Center Business Group.

“It's driven largely by the evolution of the NIC – the network interface cards on the servers. Quite a few of the servers were largely 1G to 10G attached. Now, we're beginning to see the pretty significant change on the servers that are attached to the top‑of‑rack switch and going up from 10G to 25 or 50, which is now making the uplinks from the top‑of‑rack, wanting to be higher density, 100G,” Acra stated. 

Cisco also wrote on its blogsite: While demand drives the need, it is the compelling economics of 25GE and a core layer with 100GE that will drive deployment.

Moving from 10G to 25G to 100G Ethernet

“Optics prices have dramatically dropped, with 25G at essentially the same price as 10G and 100G at the price of 40G. Using four lanes of 25GE, 100GE backbone platforms require lesser cabling and reduced space requirements and cost savings. Backward compatibility provides additional options to ease the transition while extending the value of your current assets," Cisco said.

There are other forces at play, as well.

"Cloud and software-defined architectures are shaking up the Ethernet switch and router markets," wrote Petr Jirovsky, research manager, for IDC’s Worldwide Networking Trackers. "Continued price erosion and increasing divergence between buying preferences of cloud and communications service providers and enterprises creates a challenging environment for vendors, but also opportunity for end users."

Cisco, Juniper, Arista, HPE, and Huawei target data center

Cisco, Juniper, Arista, HPE, and Huawei are just a few of the vendors that have been aggressively pursuing the opportunities in higher speed as well as traditional speed Ethernet markets. Juniper most recently rolled out its EX4650 high-density 25/100 Gbps switch which supports 48 100G Ethernet ports, or 48 ports at 25G and eight 100G uplinks.

But the drive for 100G is only the sta

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