John Osley
Former Global Product Marketing Director

When is it the right time to upgrade to 10GbE?

When is it the right time to upgrade to 10GbE?

Holding on to your networking and data center gear for as long as possible is a good way to protect your bottom line, but at what point does avoiding an upgrade actually begin to harm your business?  “There simply comes a point when it costs much more to incrementally upgrade an existing legacy enterprise to address new needs than to fully depreciate existing assets and move on.”1 Below are some key indicators and trigger events that will help you know when it’s the right time to migrate your legacy 100MbE and/or 1GbE equipment to higher bandwidth, next generation products and platforms:

  1. You need your network and data center to support virtualized, software-defined, and/or cloud-based environments.

We hear the terms virtualization, SDN, and cloud used ubiquitously to describe the next wave of networking and data center technologies that promise dramatic increases in performance and capacity, and simplify the provisioning and management of physical resources.  Regardless of the hype, however, these trends – especially server and desktop virtualization – drive new requirements for increased bandwidth to be truly effective.  As Intel reports, “Since 2010, according to IDC, there have been more VMs deployed than physical servers, with VMs continuing to grow at a far faster rate than physical servers.  It is simply uneconomical to support a virtualized server with multiple 1GbE connections to support all those VMs.”  To address this issue, Intel suggests that, “Sharing a ‘fatter’ 10GbE pipe dramatically reduces cabling costs, power consumption, and overall infrastructure costs.” 2   Whether you are in the process of implementing advanced networking technologies in your data center, or merely investigating your options, migrating to 10GbE is the first step you’ll need to take.

2.    You are experiencing performance issues in mission-critical applications, or will soon be deploying a robust, enterprise-wide software package such as Oracle or SAP.

Today we are experiencing a proliferation of data that is unlike any other time in history.  Video as a medium for communication has never been more popular, and its use will only continue to increase in the years to come.  As companies rapidly embrace “big data” and video as common elements of their mainstream business processes, their existing data infrastructure cannot keep up.  In order to compensate, many IT departments will augment their compute and storage resources, and overlook the lines of transmission that connect them.  One example of this is utilizing Flash memory in the form of Solid-State Drives (SSDs) in core servers and storage arrays.  “It should come as no surprise that the use of Flash in the form of SSDs can move a system’s critical choke point from storage to the network.  Even a little bit of Flash can shift your system’s performance bottleneck from storage to the network if you are still on 1GbE.” 3 It is important to audit and inspect all aspects of your data center – servers, storage, and networking – when making the decision to deploy new applications that may potentially gobble up lots of memory, processing power, and bandwidth.

3.    You need to cut costs and save money.

We are all familiar with the phrase “do more with less.”  In spirit, it is a noble business aspiration, but when applied to an organization’s IT strategy and budget, those words become problematic and vexing.  As unintuitive as it may sound, upgrading to a higher performance platform may actually help your company save money.  Migrating to 10GbE provides opportunities to not only consolidate 1GbE lines, but to also combine your Ethernet LAN and Fiber Channel SAN into one network.  As Dell explains, “The first step for many IT departments is taking inventory of expensive stand-alone systems such as networking or storage devices and then investigate how smaller, denser and converged platforms might help reduce costs, footprint and management.  At the same time organizations are assessing their Local Area Networks (LAN) and Storage Area Networks (SAN) infrastructure and evaluating how they can consolidate the two into one multi-functional network.”4.  Furthermore, the price per port for 10GbE has come down dramatically over the past 12 to 18 months, so switches are much more affordable for organizations of all sizes.  Finally, while 10GBASE-T is becoming more available, most switches use SFP+ optical transceivers as connectors to fiber optic uplinks.  Utilizing compatible third-party optical transceivers and direct-attach cables, instead of overpriced optics directly from the manufacturer, provides a great way to achieve significant savings.

4.    Migrate on your own terms - you don’t have to do it all at once.

Most importantly, don’t feel forced to begin your migration to 10GbE by your incumbent networking vendor.  While they can provide a lot of useful information, it is sometimes one-sided and not always in your best interest.  It is important to expose yourself to a few objective tips like these that can help you determine when upgrading to 10GbE is right for your network.  For the best results, you should experiment with different 10GbE options in a confined, non-mission critical (or developmental) part of your network or data center.  Once you have decided on the best products and solutions for your company, avoid massive capital expenditures by scaling your 10GbE deployment across your network over a period of time, starting with the core and working outward to the edge.  Utilize third-party maintenance and support providers to help determine and preserve the useful life of legacy components.  In many cases, you can find a practical, cost-effective hybrid solution that weds previous generation hardware with current best-of-breed products, and exceeds the performance, availability, and capacity requirements for your data center.

If you liked what you read in this blog, you might also enjoy:


1  The Evolution from Products to Platforms in Software Driven Cloud Networking, by Jayshree Ullal.  September 15, 2014.

2  Now Is the Time to Upgrade to 10 Gigabit Ethernet, page 1, Intel Whitepaper.  April 24, 2014.

3  Now Is the Time to Upgrade to 10 Gigabit Ethernet, page 3, Intel Whitepaper.  April 24, 2014.

4  A Practical Guide for Moving to 10GbE, page 5, Dell Whitepaper.  October2013.



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