October 09, 2012, 11:44 AM — Gigabit Ethernet has been the dominant server network option of choice for the past decade, with more than 200 million 1Gbps server ports shipped since the early 2000s. But the introduction of Intel's new Romley server platform, together with rapid adoption of virtualization options and the emergence of technologies such as big data, are fueling migration to 10 Gigabit Ethernet.
This migration ultimately will spur an Ethernet switch refresh cycle and generate an estimated $50 billion in revenue for suppliers over the next five years, however the 10Gbps transition has been slow and is following a different path from that of 1Gbps.
This article describes the current status of the 10Gbps server migration and explores the factors impacting it. We then discuss our view on the catalysts as well as the timing for 10Gbps to become the mainstream server network choice.
ANALYSIS: What if Ethernet failed?
10Gbps server migration: Where are we?
10Gbps server network ports have been shipping in material quantities for more than five years. Nevertheless, in mid-2012, we estimate that 10Gbps ports are integrated on less than 20% of servers while 1Gbps ports had reached a server penetration rate of well over 50% by that point in their ramp. Why has the migration to 10Gbps been so slow? We believe it's due to five factors:
" Price too high: Based on scenarios of typical data center deployments, connecting servers at 10Gbps Ethernet rather than 1Gbps provides a price advantage only when servers need more than five 1Gbps connections (Figure 1). However, there is a catch. Those scenarios assume 10Gbps Ethernet switches in the core. The use of 40Gbps and 100Gbps speeds -- which are not yet widely available -- may shift the point of price parity.