There’s nothing like talking directly to service providers to learn how fast technology is advancing. Take the topic of 10 Gbps Ethernet (10 GbE) connectivity for enterprises, for example. With analysts reporting majority adoption of either Virtual Private LAN Services or IP VPNs some point this year, it’s easy to see that we’ve passed into mass adoption of packet-based WANs.
Many of us in the network equipment space would like to know when the need for speeds beyond GbE, the current connection of choice for large enterprise, will start to emerge for more than a handful of sites. Companies don’t need 10x more bandwidth to move to a 10 GbE connection: the luxury of Ethernet is it’s granular rate-limiting flexibility. Moving to a 10 GbE port really means having access to any speed from 1,000 – 10,000 Mbps, with the ability to scale up as need be. More than likely if a customer is using GbE today, the fiber is already there. So switching to 10 GbE media really means changing customer-premise (located) equipment (CPE) for the service provider to a switch or network interface device (NID) that can monitor and hand-off at this rate.
These aren’t the days of T1s, where you just keep adding another to get the capacity you need. An enterprise could elect to bring in a second GbE line to scale capacity, but for nearly the same price they could run 2 Gbps over a single 10 GbE connection. This approach gives them room to grow on-demand, and gives them options to use the additional capacity as required – for example, an enterprise could request additional best-effort bandwidth at a reduced price (EIR, or Excess Information Rate beyond their guaranteed throughput) to help handle bursting or peak traffic loads.
So when will this trend start to pick up? Service providers give different answers depending on how you ask. If I ask “When should we be ready with equipment to help you deliver and monitor 10 GbE to the enterprise?” they’ll answer, “Now.” But if I ask them, “When and how many 10 GbE nodes would you actually buy?”, you tend to get more conservative answers. Recently we did ask such a question during a customer webinar, where over 150 invited service providers were asked to complete a short survey on their plans for 10 GbE in the year ahead.
In general, the 10 GbE need was stronger than expected, with just over half planning to deploy 10 GbE packet performance nodes next year. When asked to estimate volume, quantities ranged from several sites to over 50 at a time. It look like for edge networking 2010 might be remembered as 2010GbE.
Even if the economy might be slow, the network certainly won’t be if these operators do what they’re threatening to.