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Force10 cuts prices of 10 Gigabit gear

Jan 23, 20033 mins

Force10 Networks this week lowered the bar for 10 Gigabit Ethernet pricing by releasing a two-port 10GBase-LR module for around 44% less than previously offered by the company.

The two-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet module will cost around $34,000, or $17,000 per port. This price, down from the average of around $55,000 per port as previously offered by Force10, could kick off a price-lowering trend among 10 Gigabit Ethernet vendors as the expensive and complex optical components used in 10 Gigabit products come down in price. Cisco and Extreme both had “no comment” on Force10’s price reductions saying they don’t give out speculative information on product pricing changes.

“This is a product that could be very interesting in data center consolidation,” says John Schaefer, vice president of infrastructure for R.R. Donnelley, a Chicago-based printing services company. The firm has been looking for a way to connect its HP Superdome servers faster and more cheaply to its LAN and SAN.

“When we look at the amount of data going over our network, it’s not getting smaller,” Schaefer says, adding that the utilization on his Gigabit Ethernet backbone often spikes upwards of 100%.

The firm currently uses Brocade Fibre Channel devices for connecting the boxes, but Schaefer thinks 10 Gigabit Ethernet could be a more cost-effective alternative.

“The thing that makes [Force10’s product] attractive is the cost for that kind of bandwidth was substantially higher in the past,” Schaefer says. While he has not committed to Force10 — R.R. Donnelley is “mostly a Cisco shop” according to Schaefer — the new pricing of Force10’s 10 Gigabit Ethernet blade is attractive.

Force10’s two-port blade supports the “LAN PHY” version of 10 Gigabit Ethernet, which uses single-mode fiber-optic cable and can reach up to 6.2 miles, and fit into Force10’s 12-slot E1200 or six-slot E600 10 Gigabit Ethernet chassis. Analysts and industry experts say the dual-port blades also take advantage of Force10’s high module-slot-to-backplane bandwidth of 40G bit/sec — higher than most competing 10 Gigabit chassis, which provide around 6G bit/sec to 8G bit/sec between a module port and the switch backplane.

Ten Gigabit modules from Cisco, Foundry and Extreme range from $20,000 to $60,000 per port, while Enterasys sells a single-port 10 Gigabit module for $35,000. HP recently released a single-port 10GBase-x blade for over $70,000.

The Dell’Oro Group estimates that the average cost for a 10 Gigabit Ethernet port is around $35,000, although some vendors offer ports for as much as $60,000 to $80,000 per 10 Gigabit connection. Analysts say that cost is due to the complexity and newness of the optical components used in 10 Gigabit Ethernet. This factor also partly led to the delay of the standard’s ratification last year.

“There was some sticker shock when [10 Gigabit Ethernet] first came out,” says R.R. Donnelley’s Schaefer. “At the price, I think it’s more justifiable.” The lower price could also drive down 10 Gigabit costs overall in the market, which Schaefer adds he would also like to see.