10GbE offers increased affordability, performance and reliability

Today, several far-reaching IT trends — namely virtualization, cloud computing and network convergence — are rendering legacy network and data center architectures obsolete. Server virtualization and chatty web applications are profoundly increasing the volume of server-to-server traffic within the data center, scaling networking environments beyond what they can support. In addition, intensive workloads requiring additional devices and port counts are making the network increasingly inflexible and difficult to manage.

As a result, data centers — even in small businesses — must become more dynamic and complex, making the network vulnerable to a failure. This causes IT and network administrators to struggle to maintain performance in lieu of innovating solutions around business drivers.

Thus many organizations are investigating network virtualization and convergence and switching to 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) as their standard server-to-network interface.

Virtualization burdens the infrastructure

Server virtualization initiatives are a top priority for 2012. Midsized organizations maintain aggressive plans to grow their already expansive stock of virtualized servers, which in turn will increase the number of virtual servers that must be integrated into the physical data center.

Virtualization decouples applications and operating systems from physical hardware, allowing for multiple virtual machines (VMs) and operating systems to run on a single physical device. By eliminating the one-application-per-one-server model, virtualization enables organizations to run a greater application load on less server hardware, leading to greater server densities and more input/output (IO) throughput.

In order to account for the added workloads, virtualization servers are often clustered into shared volumes in a way that data and resources can be provisioned and allocated automatically based on need. Though the migration of data and resources are designed to enhance performance, many legacy networks — most of which are optimized for server-to-client traffic — experience increased latency and operational failure with server-to-server communication.

Application demands growth

Growing deployments of web-based applications are also taxing existing networking infrastructure. More and more organizations are deploying service-oriented architectures (SOA) and web applications. As with server virtualization, these applications scale horizontally across server tiers and are challenging already overworked legacy networking equipment and processes.

As a result of these initiatives, maintaining network and application performance based on the traditional networking framework is proving costly and time-consuming. Managing the physical data center network infrastructure, manually configuring physical servers and provisioning IP addresses has become a full-time job for IT and networking admins who are forced to spend all of their time trying to keep the lights on rather than innovating.

Companies need an alternative solution to the impending — even immediate — networking concerns racking the data center.

Networks get virtual

Software-defined networks (SDNs) offer a new model to traditional frameworks. While traditional models require that networking equipment and path policies be independently set up on a device-by-device basis, SDNs utilize software to virtualize networks to externalize the control plane. Virtual networks are intended for specific use cases such as multitenant data centers and support VM mobility, data center orchestration and centralized management.

However, while virtual networks limit manual processes and help streamline live migratory capabilities of virtualization and SOA, legacy equipment may still create network bottlenecks. “The word in networking is speed,” says Zeus Kerravala, principle analyst at ZK Research. Zeus says, “Speed to move data in virtual machines and speed to move increasingly complex, richer data such as video.” To this end, organizations are investing more and more in upgrading networking to 10GbE.

Why upgrade to 10GbE?

10GbE is different than earlier Ethernet standards, in that it only functions in full-duplex mode, meaning that collision-detection protocols are unnecessary. Ten times faster than 1Gb, 10Gb continues the evolution of Ethernet in speed and distance, allowing organizations to solve increased bandwidth demands brought about by virtualization and SOA.

By requiring more traffic, virtualization necessitates faster processes, and 1GbE can pose serious operational problems, warns Robin Layland of Layland Consulting. “Trying to save some money by using lower speed entails risk if the 1Gb link has capacity problems.”

With each deployment of next-generation Ethernet technology, deployment costs have trended downward, making 10GbE a cost-effective solution for even small to midsized organizations.

If your organization is experiencing networking problems, consider upgrading to 10GbE. Implementing speed at a small markup will allow your organization to maintain a strong networking backbone and provide enough bandwidth for increases in future capacity.

“Just remember,” says Kerravala, “experience shows that no matter how much bandwidth you think you’ll need down the road, you will likely need more, so build accordingly.” Build now and have peace of mind later.