SAN JOSE, Calif. Following in the footsteps of Cisco Systems and others, Hewlett-Packard's network switching group releases Tuesday (July 12) its first transceiver modules to carry 10 Gbit Ethernet over multimode optical fibre. HP hopes its 10GBase-LRM modules help nudge the slow-moving market for 10GE forward.
"Multimode tends to represent the majority of installed fibre," said Mark Thomson, a director of sales and marketing for the HP ProCurve division of HP. "It tends to be cost effective, flexible and easy to connect, so I think we will find a lot of use for this in the data center," he added.
The transition to 10GE is moving significantly slower than previous Ethernet generations, in part because the technology requires new copper cabling and components are still expensive. Today many data centers aggregate multiple Gbit Ethernet links that cost less than $200 per port rather than upgrade to 10GE links that can cost $2,500 per port, said Thomson.
"10G is probably another year or two from having a really competitive price story," he said.
The LRM transceivers can carry data up to 220 meters, as much as three times the distance of HP's previous modules that used single-mode fibre. The HP modules cost $2,499, serve a range of about six HP ProCurve switches and are available immediately.
The next big milestone for 10GE deployments is getting the technology to run over copper cabling using the 10GBase-T standard.
"The engineering challenges are in power consumption and distance," Thompson said. "We'd like to have transceivers that carry the data 100 meters over copper with 1-2 W power consumption and prices at least competitive in cost with fibre," he said.
The latest transceivers dissipate about 5.5W, typically send data for less than 100 meters and require new Category 6 or higher cabling. Thompson said switch makers see limited markets for such devices among users hungry for bandwidth and not sensitive to costs.
"Today this is a relatively small market but it's growing rapidly," he said.
For its part, Cisco Systems has helped spearhead work on a Fibre Channel over Ethernet standard. FCoE aims to combine Fibre Channel and Ethernet cards and ports on servers and switches to help reduce the costs of moving to 10GE.
Thompson said the ProCurve group will not launch FCoE switches to rival those of Cisco. "Today people still want to segregate their storage and LAN traffic," he said.
The worldwide Ethernet semiconductor market remained flat in 2007 compared to 2006, but the 10GE segment is starting to grow, according to a report from International Data Corp. released July 10.