For those charged with the design and implementation of enterprise IT networks, a vexing problem is that technology advances at uneven rates across the hardware ecosystem. When we hit a new tier of speed, first out of the gate usually come (very expensive) modules for high-end core switches and routers. Faster interfaces gradually trickle down to edge switches and server interface cards, and only later do affordable options come to network monitoring and security appliances.
We're at the midpoint of this process with 10-Gbps Ethernet; switch ports are available for less than $200, and server adapters are in the same range for older systems that don't already have multiple 10-Gbps ports embedded on the motherboard. But start pricing equipment to monitor and secure 10-Gbps Ethernet networks, and you'll be in for sticker shock. And forget about your 40- or 100-Gbps gear.
Yet as 10-Gbps Ethernet proliferates, the demand for higher-speed 40- and soon 100-Gbps aggregation layers to handle the added traffic will increase correspondingly. What's a poor network security administrator supposed to do?
Foremost, study our recent history. As IT organizations on the leading edge of technology adoption rolled out 10-Gbps Ethernet networks, they developed strategies for eking out a few extra years from older, slower, yet still serviceable monitoring and security systems. The same scenario will be replayed with the migration to 40- and 100-Gbps Ethernet since tools lag the networking hardware pace, says Daniel Aharon, senior director of product management at Net Optics, a provider of network monitoring gear.
10-Gbps Ethernet Goes Mainstream
In case you're in denial, multiple InformationWeek surveys over the past year have demonstrated that 10-Gbps Ethernet has gone mainstream. It's no longer the province of high-performance computing clusters and government spy agencies. To wit: 32% of technology pros in our State of the Data Center Survey say that network technologies of 10 Gbps and faster will have a major impact on their data center operations. That's second only to budget constraints as a top-of-mind concern. In other words, higher-speed networking is the most significant technology affecting data centers.
Similarly, 22% of respondents to our 2012 State of Server Technology Survey (full report to be published later in November) require integrated 10-Gbps Ethernet on new servers. With an additional 50% expecting to migrate in the future, it means 10 Gbps will soon be standard on virtually every new system rolling in the door.
And the action doesn't stop with servers. Our 2012 State of Storage Survey showed that just under a quarter of respondents use 10-Gbps interfaces on storage arrays, either iSCSI or Fibre Channel over Ethernet for SANs or stock Ethernet for file-sharing NAS.
Admittedly, 40- and 100-Gbps gear remains a pipe dream for most companies. While 40-Gbps Ethernet finally has emerged as a viable aggregation layer, with switch ports approaching the magic $1,000 mark, 100 Gbps is still the stuff of network cores at Internet service providers and big telcos, and these folks typically aren't doing security scans and packet capture unless the National Security Agency is involved.
40-Gbps Ethernet as still on the bleeding edge, says Jay Botelho, product manager at WildPackets, a provider of network monitoring, analysis and troubleshooting products. In the last 18 to 24 months, he has seen customers aggressively adopting 10-Gbps gear, but he says 40-Gbps Ethernet is largely limited to niches like universities, big service and cloud providers, and video production houses like DreamWorks and Lucasfilm.
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