Extreme Puts Ten Gig Ethernet On Copper


Extreme Networks is pushing 10G Ethernet on copper, as an alternative to fibre: it’s cheaper, and the shorter range is adequate for the data centre

Extreme Networks’ new Summit X650 data centre switch, has 10GBaseT ports, running 10Gbit/s Ethenet  (10GbE) on copper cabling, rather than fibre.

Most 10GbE products from companies such as Cisco, Juniper, Brocade and Extreme run on fibre, which is more expensive and more has a longer range than copper.

Copper-based 10GbE has a range of only 55mon standard Cat6 cables (see Wikipedia) , but copper is  prevalent in data centres, and cheaper – and data centre racks are rarely more than 55m apart.

The continued consolidation of data centres and the growth of virtualization are driving the push for 10GbE networking in the data centre, but fibre is pricey, said Greg Cross, a spokesman for Extreme.

By contrast, 10GBaseT technology runs over copper cabling, which Cross said is cheaper and less sensitive than fibre. “This is a good choice [for enterprise] data centres with copper throughout,” Cross said. “Essentially you can leave all of your [existing] equipment and put [10GbE] in when you’re ready to do so.”

Extreme, which also sells a host of fibre-based 10GbE products, is building a complete 10GBaseT portfolio. Along with the Summit X650 switch, Extreme is also working with chip maker Intel, which is making server adapters for the copper-based technology that use widely deployed RJ-45 connectivity.

The need for more – and faster – bandwidth in the data centre is driving the push from 1GbE to 10GbE. A key in that is virtualization, which is increasing server utilisation from as low as 20 percent to 50 percent or more. Greater density within the data centre is also a key factor.

However, that push comes amid a global economic recession, which is putting pressure on the Ethernet switch market. On 24 Feb, Infonetics Research issued a report that said that, after a strong start to 2008, the Ethernet switch market stumbled in the fourth quarter, with revenues dropping both over the third quarter and the fourth quarter in 2007.

Market research firm Dell’Oro Group issued its own report 2 March that found similar results. According to this report, the Ethernet switch market saw a revenue decline in the fourth quarter, and is expected to decline more than 10 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

The market will lose more than $1 billion (£0.7 billion) in its quarterly run rate over the course of the two quarters, the Dell’Oro report said.

However, the report also stated that 10GbE will be the only segment to show sequential port and revenue growth in 2009.

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