New servers shipping with 10 Gbps interfaces: Time to upgrade?

The 10 Gigabit Ethernet upgrade is a tough one for many organizations to roll in. IT pro Rick Vanover highlights how the built-in aspect is a big step in the right direction for the next generation of Ethernet technologies.

If you haven’t noticed yet, a number of new servers and storage devices are shipping with built-in interfaces that support 10 Gbps networking. In my opinion, this is one of the tell-tale signs that 10 Gbps networking needs to become the mainstream in the datacenter.

Dell, for example, now has a number of servers that are presenting either converged networking adapters (CNAs) or iSCSI interfaces that are 10 Gbps. This is the case on the PowerEdge R810 as well as some other newer models. This model still has two built-in 1 Gbps Ethernet interfaces, but also includes two 10 Gbps interfaces through an OEM agreement with Emulex. I’ve also seen a number of other storage and networking products start to offer 10 Gbps interfaces as well, making me wonder what the state of the union is for endpoint connectivity to servers and storage. We’ll save 10 Gbps to the desktop for another day!

This of course is much easier said than done in any datacenter. There are a number of issues surrounding a wholesale upgrade of the base network fabric. This can be initial investment, not really needing 10 Gbps, and determining how the storage network(s) are to be provisioned. Today’s storage networks are a driving force in determining why these servers and storage products now have 10 Gbps interfaces.

Having interfaces built-in is a big plus. This saves a lot of the back and forth configuration requirements of accessory cards, yet also can be limiting as (in this case) it only provides two interfaces. Should more be needed, we are back to the configuration stage. Further, we may end up neglecting the tried and true 1 Gbps interfaces. A lot of models come with four 1 Gbps interfaces, and we may in the end have to add both 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps interfaces to new server provisioning, effectively complicating our configuration.

What is your take on the 10 Gbps interfaces being built-in on some servers? Good, bad, not ready yet? Share your comments below.