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10G still prepping for big dance

Sep 06, 20042 mins

* Prices fall, new standards make 10G more practical - but challenges remain

While not yet a technology for the masses, more corporations are adopting 10G Ethernet as prices fall and vendors refine their 10G product portfolios.

Whether 10G Ethernet is ready for widespread corporate deployments in switches, wiring closets and desktops is debatable. But what’s inarguable are the changes in the technology over the past few years and efficiencies in manufacturing that have decreased prices by more than 85% since 10G gear was introduced in 2002.

While the average 10G Ethernet port cost more than $55,000 in 2002, that price dropped to $15,000 per port a year ago and now averages about $7,500, according to Synergy Research Group. At the same time, port shipments of 10G Ethernet have increased; only 1,000 ports were shipped in all of 2002, while more than 15,000 were sold in the first half of this year.

The lower prices for 10G Ethernet are the result of less-expensive optical components from suppliers. One area of advancement has been in 10G Ethernet physical layer connections – the lasers that shoot and receive transmissions of light over fiber. Newer modular port technologies, such as XENPAC and XFP modules, are examples of these lower-cost ports.

“We’ve seen lower costs on the optical part of it with the development of new optics like XENPAC and other kinds of optics that are less expensive to manufacture,” says Richard Nelson, director of computing at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute (USC-ISI). The Los Angeles organization, the computer research arm of USC, runs many Foundry Networks 10G Ethernet switches in its backbone and to connect to other USC campuses.

Tighter-designed components also has led to switch companies offering multi-port 10G Ethernet blades that are non-blocking and relatively inexpensive. Vendors are packing up to four full-duplex, non-blocking ports onto one card with up to 40G bit/sec of bandwidth between the modules.

“The four-port blade is really popular,” says Joshua Johnson, an analyst with Synergy Research Group. Cisco, Enterasys Networks, Extreme Networks, Force 10 Networks and Foundry offer such a blade for their respective switch chassis. “That technology has allowed vendors to lower the per-port price below $10,000,” he says.

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