Foundry Networks claims it will accelerate the uptake of 10Gigabit Ethernet with a new series of products next week. Among them is an eight-port switch that will bring the cost of 10Gig down to under £1,500 per port.

The aim is 10Gig everywhere, says Foundry product marketing manager Val Oliva. To that end, the company is also adding eight-port modules for its BigIron core switches, and a pair of stackable EdgeIron distribution switches with 24 or 48 one-Gig ports, optional 10Gig uplinks and 40Gigs each of stack interconnect.

The centrepiece is the EdgeIron aggregation switch, with eight 10Gig ports and a 10/100 management port. Oliva says this is aimed at data centre purposes such as server clustering and IP SANs, as well as LAN backboning and aggregation. "Our motivation is to bring 10Gig into the mainstream," he said. "To do that we have to solve four problems - density, affordability, introduce edge products and make it seamless with metro Ethernet and the WAN."

He said that the eight-port module for BigIron provides density by doubling its capacity to 192 10Gig ports per rack, and the EdgeIron switches make 10Gig affordable and push it out to the edge. Finally, adding a WAN PHY (physical interface) alongside the fibre and copper LAN PHYs provides direct connectivity over long distances.

The WAN PHY is not a cheap option - as one of Foundry's swappable XENPAK modules it costs $16,495 (£8,930), versus $5,495 (£2,974) for an LX4 fibre LAN PHY or $1,095 (£593) for CX4 copper. However, it means a LAN can be extended over global distances - the 18,500km Tokyo-CERN network includes Foundry 10Gig switches, for example.

Oliva says that the WAN capability built into 10Gig means it can talk directly to Sonet/SDH, doing away with the need for a router or CSU/DSU box to handle translation between the two. "10Gig effectively has Sonet built in - it's a saving for the end user," he says.

Compared to HP's latest 10Gig-capable ProCurve distribution switches, the stackable EdgeIrons don't look all that cheap: 24 copper 1Gig ports will set you back $4,395 (£2,380) and 48 ports is $6,595 (£3,571). Both vendors then charge extra for the optional 10Gig uplinks.

However, where Foundry scores is that each EdgeIron has two 20Gig full duplex ports for stack interconnect. These can form a closed loop too, so you can hot-swap a unit out of the stack. There are a couple of caveats. For one, although Foundry says its $21,995 (£11,909) eight-port fixed switch pushes 10Gig pricing below the industry average of around $5,000 per port, its eight-port BigIron module is $55,000 (£29,777), or $7,000 per port, so its own average is not so different.

And the company's published price list includes a 10 percent price premium for non-US sales, even though both prices are in US dollars. "I'm not sure why the extra is needed," says Oliva. "It's one thing that needs to be removed."

Is 10Gig Ethernet ready for prime time? Check out Techworld's analysis here.