10 Gigabit upgrade helps college modernize network

While the tech industry looks ahead to 40 Gigabit Ethernet and 100 Gigabit Ethernet, lots of IT shops are still undergoing the transition to 10 Gig networks.  

At the College of New Jersey, a school with 6,000 students, the IT staff upgraded its core network to 10 Gigabit bandwidth one year ago to improve performance and replace out-of-date equipment.

"With 10 Gigabit, it seems like its time has come," says Alan Bowen, who currently serves as the college's manager of IT security and was previously the network systems engineer. "Its price per port has come down."

The college has been buying network equipment from Extreme Networks for almost a decade and was ready for an upgrade to the vendor's new switches last year. (Extreme last week dismissed CEO Mark Canepa and 9% of the company's workforce, in an effort to improve the company's bottom line.)

"Our issue for upgrading was that we had aging equipment," Bowen says. "This equipment was installed in August 2000, and this stuff ages in dog years. It was well past its prime."

The college spent about $300,000 for upgrades including Extreme's BlackDiamond 8800 Series 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches, as well as the vendor's Summit X450a switches for a new distribution layer to create redundancy throughout the campus network.

The new 10 Gigabit capabilities help deliver performance to widely used applications, like a student information system, e-learning systems, and payroll.

"We need Internet connectivity to our users. We do a lot of Web 2.0 stuff that's mostly hosted on campus," and use software-as-a-service applications from outside the network, he says.

Internet bandwidth is the college's biggest limiting factor, Bowen says, but he didn't need 10 Gigabit speeds throughout the whole network. Gigabit Ethernet is still good enough for many academic and residential buildings, he says.

For many users, "the demand isn't there for faster bandwidth," Bowen says. "When we look at port utilization, we hardly ever see more than 100 megabits of throughput."

For the upgrade, Bowen stuck with Extreme because a big-name vendor like Cisco probably would have been two-thirds more expensive, he says. Another important factor for the College of New Jersey was Extreme's Ethernet Automatic Protection Switching (EAPS) technology, which provides rapid recovery after link and node failures.

Adoption of 10 Gigabit Ethernet is increasing rapidly, with worldwide vendor revenue jumping from $384 million in 2004 to $1.2 billion in 2006 and up to $2.5 billion in 2008, according to Dell'Oro research. A standard for 40 and 100 Gigabit Ethernet is being considered by IEEE, and is on track for approval in June 2010. Products should hit the market by the second half of 2010, according to Extreme Networks.

Customers are still buying more 1 Gigabit products than 10 Gigabit, but revenue for 10 Gig should more than double by 2013, says Huy Nguyen, director of convergence technologies for Extreme Networks. Today, 10 Gigabit Ethernet is becoming pervasive in the core network, whereas Gigabit Ethernet is still ruling the edge, according to the vendor.

"One of the factors for 10 Gigabit migration is cost," Nguyen says. "If I want to make an investment and upgrade the network today, I want to make sure that investment will last for five to seven years."

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This story, "10 Gigabit upgrade helps college modernize network" was originally published by Network World.

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