Apr 05 2011

Why 10 Gig-E Makes Sense

Schools find that 10 Gigabit Ethernet supports growing data stores and data consolidation and virtualization projects.

May 2011 E-newsletter

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Why 10 Gig-E Makes Sense

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Council Rock School District in Bucks County, Pa., and Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia are getting the word out that K–12 school districts have some serious networking needs today.

These school districts have already deployed 10 Gigabit Ethernet in their operations centers to meet increasing demands from enterprise data, video, voice applications and growing server virtualization initiatives.

“We already had fiber, and we wanted to take advantage of that,” says Matt Frederickson, the IT director at CRSD who oversaw a network refresh several years ago that completely replaced an aging ATM infrastructure with a Cisco Systems wide area network and wireless network.

The original refresh included Cisco Catalyst 6509 Series switches, among other equipment. And this past summer, the school district upgraded to the Cisco Catalyst 6513, a 13-slot chassis that offers 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gig-E port densities.

“I knew by looking at the growth of Voice over IP, Video over IP and other bandwidth-intensive applications that we really needed a network that was robust enough,” Frederickson says. “Also, if something else were to come down the pike that I wasn't anticipating, the 10 Gig-E switches wouldn't require me to gut what we were putting in.”

Making the Upgrade

A lot of organizations are upgrading their data center environments to aggregate traffic from multiple Gigabit Ethernet links connected to other switches, hypervisor machines or physical computers, says Jeremy Littlejohn, president of consulting firm RISC Networks. Littlejohn works closely with CIOs and IT managers to help them optimize the reliability, scalability and performance of their IT infrastructures.

As for the benefits of 10 Gig-E, Littlejohn says organizations that upgrade expect to see faster backups and improved data traffic flows. Despite these clear benefits, Littlejohn cautions that organizations need to examine the root cause of their application performance/backup equation before they try to fix any networking issues with more bandwidth.

He says 10 Gig-E is not always the answer. Typically, his group tells customers to focus more on input/output discards (as opposed to input/output bandwidth) as they monitor their networks.

“The discards tell the story of overutilization and performance issues such as dropped packets – the No. 1 problem in campus LANs – and can be the best indicator for a 10 Gig-E upgrade,” he explains.

Fairfax County Public Schools deployed 10 Gig-E in its network operation center about 14 months ago by replacing its core network switches with Cisco Nexus 7000 Series switches, according to Thomas VanDenburg, coordinator of network and systems services at FCPS. In the next six to 12 months, VanDenburg and his colleagues at the nation's 11th-largest school district will replace all top-of-rack LAN switches located in each of the server racks with 10 Gig-E switches.

The estimated growth in enterprise data through 2013

SOURCE: Gartner

VanDenburg says the move to 10 Gig-E was driven by the need to support increased network traffic. This includes networked applications, backup and archiving, disaster recovery and server and storage virtualization.

“Simply put, more traffic means a bigger highway is required,” VanDenburg says. “As an IT organization, our job is to get out ahead of the bandwidth needs, be responsive and provide the necessary infrastructure required for the school division to advance its use of technologies for the betterment of instruction and learning.”

Council Rock and Fairfax both are moving to a virtualized server environment. CRSD's Frederickson began virtualization initiatives last year; now, what once was a computing environment of 112 physical servers has been reduced to about 35 virtual servers. The 10 Gig-E network is delivering the robust support CRSD's virtual environment needs.

“As we start to virtualize, we take advantage of the 10 Gig-E throughput,” Frederickson says. “The 10 Gig-E infrastructure gives me the flexibility to provide dynamic support and reliable support. It gives me the ability to deliver, and users don't have to suffer. I can add more virtual servers without having to worry about the highway.”

10 Gig-E in a Nutshell

Why are more organizations deploying 10 Gigabit Ethernet in their data centers? They want to deliver bandwidth levels that can support ever-increasing data stores, server virtualization and data center consolidation.

10 Gig-E products are built to support such projects. For example, with virtualization, server utilization goes up. And with this increased utilization comes increased network bandwidth needs.

On the data consolidation front, 10 Gig-E can connect backbone switches and routers between data, storage and server networks. It also increases the bandwidth capacity for the backbone, reducing network latency between switches and routers. And because it's Ethernet, there's built-in plug-and-play with existing equipment, reducing administration and operating costs.

Finally, 10 Gig-E gives organizations a clear path to 40 Gig-E and 100 Gig-E, both of which will be vital for meeting the future bandwidth requirements that will likely come with cloud computing.