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Building a 10 GigE storage network

Ezine

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10 Gbps Ethernet is here, with plenty of products available, so it’s only a matter of time before most data storage shops decide to step up from 1 GigE to 10 GigE.

Many data centers still use Gigabit Ethernet (1 Gbps) -- or 1 GigE -- to handle normal local-area network (LAN) traffic between laptop computers, desktop computers, file servers and application servers. But many application and file servers currently use multiple 1 GigE network interface cards (NICs) because they need more total bandwidth. It’s not uncommon to see four, six or eight 1 GigE ports in these servers. Some of the ports are used for management functions, while others are dedicated to network traffic flow, including some file or block storage traffic. Certainly, with the increasing adoption of virtualization, we find that more network bandwidth is needed.

The solution has actually been lurking deep inside the data center for a few years:

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10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GigE). This technology, as its name implies, is 10 times faster than Gigabit Ethernet, and was actually ratified as a standard back in 2002. However, its price point has been too high for a very long time, so adoption during its first few years was limited to data center core networking, where the higher bandwidth and price could be justified. Initially, it was used primarily for switch-to-switch connections for trunking of network connections. Earlier implementations of 10 GigE also used different cabling and connector technologies requiring fiber-optic or specialized copper cabling. For several years, 10 GigE couldn’t use the same type of familiar cabling we use for Gigabit Ethernet and the slower speeds of Ethernet.

This was first published in July 2012

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