Intel expects 10Gbit Ethernet to kick off in 2011

Gets integrated on the server motherboards

DURING THE INTEL Storage Solution Forums yesterday, the company was keen to point out that from next year we’ll see widespread adoption of 10Gbit Ethernet in the server environment. The main reason for this coming uptake in 10Gbit Ethernet according to Intel is that it will launch a transceiver that will be implemented on server motherboards, rather than needing an add-on card.

Intel started with showing a graph of the uptake of Gigabit Ethernet and how it ramped up to 10 million ports within the first year and a half from the introduction of onboard controllers. Intel is expecting to see a similar ramp up once it launches its 10Gbit controller next year. A study by IDC suggests that by 2015 half of all Ethernet ports on servers will use 10Gbit Ethernet, although as always we’d take these kinds of predictions with a pinch of salt.

Intel itself is predicting that 10Gbit Ethernet over copper is set to become the most popular network interface on servers by 2013. However, Intel doesn’t expect 10Gbit Ethernet to be used for networking alone as the company is working on turning Ethernet into the preferred interconnect used in storage networks. Today high-performance storage networks are relying on Fibre Channel, but Intel claims that 10Gbit Ethernet offers better performance in conjunction with Fibre Channel over Ethernet.

Another technology that Intel was keen on promoting for storage networks on 10Gbit Ethernet was iSCSI. During certain internal tests Intel was able to reach 1.03 million IOPs using iSCSI in combination with 10Gbit Ethernet, which is faster than many current Fibre Channel implementations. Although more normal workloads didn’t perform quite that well, they still managed an impressive 552,000 IOPs. Intel compared this to the performance of 3,100 hard disk drives, or 1.7 million Exchange email boxes being accessed at the same time.

Intel is trying to sell 10Gbit Ethernet for storage networks as a more cost effective and standardised solution compared to Fibre Channel, with the added advantage of not only being able to handle the storage network traffic, but also the normal network traffic. Time will tell if Intel will be successful in reaching its goals, but we have no doubt that 10Gbit Ethernet will become vastly more popular as the cost decreases. The only thing stopping quick adoption will be the relatively high prices of 10Gbit switches, but with more support for 10Gbit Ethernet, we’re likely to see more affordable switches in the future as well.S|A

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