The myth of 10GbE IP storage

The vendors talk about 10 gigabit Ethernet as if it were the saving grace of IP storage. But how many of us actually need it -- and what for?

Back in the days before 10Gbps Ethernet was available, the fact that IP-based storage like iSCSI and NFS were stuck at 1Gbps Ethernet speed was used to prove that 2Gbps and 4Gbps Fibre Channel still reigned supreme. Today, with the wide availability and plummeting cost of 10GbE networking hardware, many now argue -- ironically enough -- that the reverse is true.

Yes, 10GbE can play a tremendously beneficial role in storage networks for a variety of reasons. But focusing solely on the wire rates can be extremely misleading, especially when you compare Ethernet to Fibre Channel, which at a fundamental level are two vastly different protocols. That raises a simple question: When do you really need 10GbE rather 1GbE?

When you take a good, hard look at it, how much do these raw throughput stats actually matter? What does operating at 10Gbps speeds offer you that multiple 1Gbps links do not? Answering that question might seem pretty obvious, but it's not quite as straightforward as it seems.

Pushing bits

Yes, the laws of physics still hold: You can push roughly 10 times the bits through a 10GbE pipe than you can through a 1GbE pipe. But let's take a step back and actually look at those numbers.

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