Prices Hold Back 10-Gbit Transition

In a recent research note, analyst firm Dell’Oro Group claimed that the third quarter should have seen the start of a shift to 10-Gbit Ethernet controllers and adapters within the data center market. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, prices for the faster controllers remain just too steep, forcing data center operators to opt for slower, cheaper alternatives within the 1-Gbit tier. Del’Oro suggested in its report that the 10-Gbit Ethernet market was basically flat during the third quarter—and that until the price premium decreases, it’s unlikely that the industry will make the transition.

“We see two key factors constraining server migration to 10 Gbps network connectivity: first, slow migration to Romley-based server platforms, and second, users continue to opt for 1 Gbps—the price premium for 10 Gbps versus 1 Gbps is too wide of a gap,” Sameh Boujelbene, senior analyst covering the controller and adapter market at Dell’Oro Group, wrote in a statement. “The Romley server transition is looking to be a four-to-five quarter transition rather than a two-to-three quarter transition for many of the major server manufacturers. Third quarter 2012 was a critical quarter as we expected some of the large server manufacturers to be shipping mostly Romley-based servers, but this did not manifest.”

Intel launched its Xeon E5-2600 family of processors (formerly code-named Romley) in the first half of 2012. The platform supports the new PCI Express 3.0 standard, increasing the transfer rate by 60 percent to 8 gigatransfers per second.

As SolarFlare executive Bruce Tolley noted earlier this year, Romley enables a dual-port PCIe x8 card with a theoretical maximum bidirectional throughput of 40 Gbps (the equivalent of four 10-Gbit Ethernet cards or a pair of 40GbE adapters). While the Ethernet industry greatly hoped for the new platform to drive 10-Gbit sales, vendor applications tended to focus on Infiniband PCIe cards, storage, and graphics applications.

“It is expected that PCIe 3 support for 10GbE and 40GbE server adapter cards will arrive in late 2012,” Tolley wrote at the time. And that apparently is still the case.

However, that isn’t stopping the Ethernet Alliance from driving ahead into the terabit realm. A plugfest held earlier this month—consisting of 18 vendors including Broadcom, Cisco Systems, Dell’s Networking and EqualLogic businesses, Emulex, Intel, NetApp, and others—pushed data through a terabit fabric. In addition, the plugfest accomplished a number of other feats, including 10GBASE-T in data center bridging architectures end-to-end over 100-meter cabling; the industry’s first multi-vendor public test of the official IEEE Data Center Bridging Exchange (DCBX) standard, 802.1Qaz; and the first sucessful test of 40-GbE in a multi-vendor DCB environment.

 

Image: benokky1972/Shutterstock.com

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