Friday, November 20, 2015

Speeds of the Data Center: What's Out There & What's Coming

The term “data center” is something many people are familiar with.  Data centers by nature tend to be hungry for bandwidth and are demanding more throughput than ever before.  It wasn't long ago that the vast majority of network engineers couldn't even imagine filling a 10 GbE link.  The tables have indeed turned with the introduction of cloud computing and virtualization, and bandwidth has seen the demand increased tenfold.

Providers are starting to make the switch over to 100 GbE on their backbone connections to support the workloads that their customers are demanding.  In the data center itself, most are seeing that 100 GbE and, in a lot of cases, even 40 GbE is overkill for the workloads they are currently serving up.

So, looking at the various speeds available today and what is coming in the very near future, you might be left wondering how come there are not more options available.  Today, 10 and 40 GbE speeds are available and widely used in the edge data center.  So, where does this 25 GbE come in? 

Let's take a look at how essentially 25 GbE is derived.  Today's 100 GbE network devices utilize four channels of 25 GbE each.  The effects of using just a single channel are multifold on device and environment sizing.  This will decrease the amount of heat that the device will give off and in turn decrease the amount of power and cooling required.  This allows for a much more cost-effective upgrade in the data center when 10 GbE is not enough and 40 GbE is way too much.  Down the road, this can be extremely beneficial when network operators realize that they need to double or even triple their current speeds.

The IEEE standard for 25 GbE is not set to be recognized as a standard until sometime in 2016.  Its arrival is being anxiously awaited.  Until that time, manufacturers will not be quick to develop products that support those speeds as their profitability would be low.  It’s all about the Benjamins!

Since the adoption of the 40 GbE and 100 GbE standards by the IEEE just a few short years back, it has spawned focus groups to begin development of 400 GbE and even Terabit Ethernet.  Seeing how the edge network is rapidly growing, the demand for these faster speeds will only continue to gain momentum.

There is a lot to look forward to in the coming years in the world of Ethernet, especially if you are a speed junkie.  The beauty behind this push is enterprises will want choices and will in turn push manufactures to produce 25/50/100 GbE NICs, assuring your data pipe will remain flowing like a well-oiled machine!

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