10G Ethernet tests show promise for data centers

UNH plug fest shows technology can handle protocols, adapt to cabling

Makers of 10G Ethernet products came away from a recent University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab plug fest with results they think will boost acceptance of the technology in corporate networks.

The vendors say customers want to know they can protect their existing investments in infrastructure and training as they transition to 10G Ethernet, and they designed interoperability tests to try to bolster that confidence.

In particular, tests demonstrated that typical LAN protocols as well as iSCSI and iWarp traffic could run over the 10G Ethernet infrastructure. IWarp is Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) technology that can be used for server and storage connectivity.

The implications for businesses include that IT administrators will not need training in the storage technologies iSCSI and iWarp in order to deploy them, saving on administrative costs. As long as they can handle Ethernet, they can handle these protocols.

The tests drew 37 vendors to test equipment at the UNH lab, which has been the host of such events for 19 years, providing a test bed for technology consortiums including DSL, Wi-Fi, VoIP, MPLS, Ethernet switching and IPv6.

Bob Noseworthy, the technical director for the lab, says its purpose is to set up a neutral environment in which vendors can test whether their gear complies with standards and whether it can interoperate with other vendors standards-based equipment. "The consensus in the room was that technically, [10G Ethernet] is ready for deployment in the data center today," Noseworthy says.

The 10G Ethernet testers came from seven technology consortiums that use the labs to work on interoperability. Those groups deal with iSCSI, 10G Ethernet, iWarp, 10G Base-T, IPv4, IPv6 and Gigabit Ethernet.

After the tests, the lab writes a confidential report for the participants about the results.

Other tests measured how well individual applications performed over 10G Ethernet infrastructure. VoIP, FTP and even IP TV traffic was tested, and showed that response times were good enough to meet the requirements of the applications.

Tests included running 10G Ethernet over a variety of cabling, including some legacy cables. For example, the tests showed that LRM -- an optical interface for small-form-factor-compatible 10G Ethernet optical links for extended reach applications --worked on FDDI cabling. Such cables are often used between data-center switches and workgroup switches.

Vendors that participated are: ADC, Agilent Technologies, Anue Systems, Broadcom, Computer Associates (CA), Chelsio Communications, Dell, Extreme Networks, Foundry Networks, Force10 Networks, Fujitsu Computer Products of America, Fulcrum Microsystems, Gigamon Systems, HP, Intel, Mellanox Technologies, Methode Electronics, Molex, Napatech, NetEffect, Neterion Technologies, Network Critical, NetXen, Nortel Networks, Panduit, Phyworks, ServerEngines, Shenick, Solarflare Communications, Solarwinds, Spirent Communications, Teak Technologies, Tehuti Networks, Teranetics, Tyco, Woven Systems and Xilinx.

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Tim Greene

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