Foundry Networks has made a bid to put 10 Gigabit Ethernet in the wiring closet, with the launch of two stackable switches with 10 Gig uplinks, at a price per port claimed to be half the industry average.
"There's a network bottleneck because Gigabit endpoints are shipping at nearly four times the rate of Gigabit switch ports," said Bob Schiff, director of marketing at Foundry's enterprise business unit. While he conceded that many laptops and PCs have Gigabit fitted because it's cheap, rather than because they need it, there are plenty of servers and high-end desktops which do need Gigabit.
The FES X424 and X448 are designed to aggregate those Gigabit connections onto one or two 10 Gigabit uplinks, at a list price of less than $3,300 (£1,824) per 10 Gigabit port. Figures from analyst the Dell'Oro Group suggest that the average actual selling price per port is currently at least twice that. The X424 and X448 have, as the names suggest, 24 and 48 Gigabit ports respectively.
10 Gbit/s to the wiring closet is not a difficult move for network managers, said Schiff: "More and more buildings have fibre to the wiring closet. It's part of the backbone and often those runs are more than [the copper limit of] 100 metres anyway." The switches could also be used by service providers to deliver Gigabit services from metropolitan area networks through access rings.
The division between enterprise and service provider gear is eroding, said Schiff, announcing a router aimed at service providers. The NetIron 40G is so called because it is ready for the proposed 40 Gbit/s Ethernet standard, which may emerge in the next year or two. The router is designed to failover and to allow software upgrades, without stopping - a feature known as Hitless MP Failover (a name which, I'm told, got a frosty reaction from a German journalist on a bad phone line). It also holds up to 256,000 routes.
"Service providers are emerging slowly," said Schiff. "The recovery there is not as fast as in the enterprise," he said, explaining that the service provider sector indulged more in the bubble years and has had to soak up a lot of excess equipment. However, rich features designed for the enterprise are now becoming useful to service providers, he said. At the carrier level, on the 40G, Foundry's 10 Gig ports, cost $15,000 (£8,290), a reduction from other vendors, said Schiff.
Elsewhere in the 10 Gig world, Schiff was not particularly excited about the approval of a standard for 10 Gbit/s Ethernet over copper, saying that its 15m length made it of limited use. "10 G base T will be worked on, to give 10 Gig over 100 m long copper cables," he said. "However, it is not expected till 2006."