The interoperability model works

2012-11-27 16:50:20

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10 Gigabit Ethernet still too expensive on servers
It may not be entirely clear what is holding back the x86 server racket in the most recent quarter – round up the usual suspects – but networking market watcher Dell'Oro says it knows what isn't helping as it was expected: 10 Gigabit Ethernet.In a report casing the 10GE server adapter market it is a bit hard to figure out which came first: the Intel "Romley" Xeon E5 server platform chicken or the 10GE LAN-on-motherboard egg for the servers based on this combination of "Sandy Bridge" CPUs and "Patsburg" chipsets. What is clear to the analysts at Dell'Oro is that 10GE adapter sales were almost flat sequentially in Q3, and that was not what the server makers or Dell'Oro were expecting."We see two key factors constraining server migration to 10 Gbps network connectivity," explained Sameh Boujelbene, senior analyst for the controller and adapter market at Dell'Oro, in the statement. "First, slow migration to Romley-based server platforms, and second, users continue to opt for 1 Gbps – the price premium for 10 Gbps versus 1 Gbps is too wide of a gap."The ramp for 10GE was supposed to follow a pattern similar to Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet before it. In those cases, companies installed some faster switches at a premium and use more expensive PCI-based adapter cards for those applications where the higher bandwidth and lower latency is necessary and justifies the higher cost.Then, a year or two later, the volume ramp for that latest Ethernet technology takes off skyward when the cost (and now power consumption) of the chips for implementing that technology come down and are integrated on the motherboard with a perceived zero cost to the server buyer.To Dell'Oro, it looks like the Romley ramp is taking longer than expected, and that is slowing down the 10GE server ramp."The Romley server transition is looking to be a four-to-five quarter transition rather than a two-to-three quarter transition for many of the major server manufacturers," adds Boujelbene. "Third quarter 2012 was a critical quarter as we expected some of the large server manufacturers to be shipping mostly Romley-based servers, but this did not manifest."Part of the problem might be that the Romley launch itself was staged, with pre-launch machines shipping in August and September last year around. Intel was widely expected to launch the initial Xeon E5-2600 processors for two-socket servers in the third quarter of 2011, and then in the fourth quarter.But issues with the SAS disk controller in the chipset (it was supposed to run at 6Gb/sec but was backstepped to 3Gb/sec) and other factors in the market compelled Intel to push the Xeon E5-2600 and Romley platform launch to March and to hold back the Xeon E5-2400 (for cheaper two-socket boxes) and the E5-4600 (for four-socket boxes) until May. Part of the problem, it would seem, is that the Romley ramp itself took some time and was later than expected.
The other factor, of course, is that the global economy has been more jittery than a drunk who hasn't had a shot for a day or two, and the uncertainty around the US presidential election and what the winner might do for (or more precisely to) the economy also caused companies to pull back a bit.Uncertainties in the fiscal cliffs in both Europe and the US ripple around the globe, affecting all nations in this finite and yet unbounded spherical economy. (The world is not flat, but it is a rather thin veneer on a globe, a transition layer between molten rock and empty space that has most of the amenities we find convenient. Except when there is nowhere else to colonize and therefore extract unfair economic advantage.)Something is clearly not going as well as it could be in the x86 server racket, that's also for sure, and it doesn’t look like Dell is the culprit. Dell got out of the gate with Xeon E5 server shipments ahead of most of its competitors with the revamping of its PowerEdge server line with its 12G systems.In the most recent quarter ended on November 2, Dell reported that Xeon E5 machines represented two-third of its revenues. And hyperscale systems built by its Data Center Solutions unit grew 26 per cent.Dell's networking business grew 40 per cent, but Dell does not yet break server and networking sales apart. Together, they comprised $2.32bn and rose 11 per cent year-on-year in the most recent quarter, which was the company's third quarter of fiscal 2013.Force10 Networks is the bulk of Dell's networking revenues and had an estimated $200m annual run rate when Dell acquired it in July 2011. Dell doesn't have a Romley server ramp problem, but because the LAN-on-motherboard is a snap in card and does not come for free, customers may be balking just the same at moving on up to 10GE.That suggests that the problem is not the Romley platform per se, but rather the fact that 10GE is a priced option on a lot of Romley systems and Gigabit Ethernet is still the default.Here's an example. On that PowerEdge R620 two-socket, 1U rack server, a Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet daughter card is the default LOM snap-in, and it costs $159 to put in the quad-port Intel Gigabit Ethernet card. The Broadcom two-port 10GE plus two-port Gigabit daughter card that snaps in to the mobo costs $629, and an Intel daughter card that has two 10GE ports and a single Gigabit port costs $659. This is on a server that has a base price of $1,559.The fact that the x86 server market as a whole is not doing well is not helping the 10GE cause on the server side, either. In the quarter ended on October 31, Hewlett-Packard's ProLiant, BladeSystem, and Scalable System revenues in aggregate fell by 7 per cent to $3.14bn, with particular softness in x86 server sales in EMEA.IBM doesn't provide revenue figures by server product line, but did say during its call going over its September quarter that its sales were off 5 percent for its System x and BladeCenter lines.
The Walker School Turns to Comcast Business Class Ethernet to Power Students' Digital Learning
ATLANTA, Nov. 13, 2012 -- /PRNewswire/ -- Comcast today announced that The Walker School, a college-preparatory pre-K-12 independent school in metro Atlanta, is using Comcast Business Class Ethernet to provide additional bandwidth at a lower cost as the school continues to grow its use of online learning tools and applications across a seven-building campus.Besides powering more iPads and cloud-based applications on campus, the new Ethernet service also supports the school's online systems for creating and recording report cards, grade books, attendance, group collaboration, and communicating with students and parents.With more than 1,000 students, 180 faculty and staff, and 400 computers for accessing the Internet, educational applications and online resources, The Walker School had seen a significant increase in data traffic on its network. In addition, the school's Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) support meant there were typically 100-150 mobile devices simultaneously on the network accessing the Internet, educational applications, or other content. As a result, the school's previous 15 Mbps Internet connection was getting bogged down, especially during peak hours of the school day.To address its growing bandwidth needs, The Walker School's Information Technology (IT) department started speaking with area schools about their service providers and received a lot of positive feedback that Comcast was able to provide faster connectivity at competitive prices. After researching their options, the school selected Comcast to install a fiber network connection to its campus with a 100 Mbps Internet service. The installation was completed during summer break and students and staff returning for the new school year remarked on the noticeable improvement in Internet speed and connectivity. The Walker School is now getting seven times more bandwidth while its cost per megabit per second has dropped 76 percent."We experienced periodic downtime with our previous vendor, and it was important for us to have a more stable connection, especially with more and more devices accessing the Internet," said Kerry Bossak, director of technology for The Walker School.  "While the increased bandwidth and guaranteed network uptime were important factors in switching to Comcast Business Class, the cost advantage is a big deal for us because it means we have the bandwidth to support our technology in education initiatives while saving money to invest in other areas of education."The Walker School recognizes the importance of embracing and integrating technology tools, applications and devices into all aspects of student life, therefore bandwidth capacity will always be an important issue for the IT department. Another reason for moving to Comcast Business Class Ethernet was the ability for The Walker School to increase bandwidth whenever needed, often by simply making a phone call to Comcast, so that students, teachers and staff always have access to the educational tools and resources they need to focus on running the school and learning."As more schools move to online learning resources and integrating connected devices into the curriculum through programs such as BYOD, having fast and reliable Internet connectivity is essentially the blackboard and chalk equivalent of 21st century classrooms," said Bob Deckard, regional vice president, Comcast Business Services, Atlanta. "Because our Ethernet services are delivered across our modern fiber-based network, we are able to provide reliable, high-performance connectivity to our customers that can easily scale up as their bandwidth demands change."About The Walker School The Walker School is the college-preparatory independent school for families seeking an engaging educational experience within an intimately scaled, caring and diverse community where opportunities abound and meaningful relationships inspire transformative learning.For more information, call 678-581-6891 or visit Comcast Business Services  Comcast Business Services, a unit of Comcast Cable, provides advanced communication solutions to help organizations of all sizes meet their business objectives. Through a modern, advanced network that is backed by 24/7 technical support, Comcast delivers Business Class Internet, TV and Voice services for cost-effective, simplified communications management.Launched in 2011, the Comcast Business Class Ethernet suite offers high-performance point-to-point and multi-point Metro Ethernet services with the capacity to deliver cloud computing, software-as-a-service, business continuity/disaster recovery and other bandwidth-intensive applications. Comcast Metro Ethernet services are significantly faster than T1 lines and other legacy technologies, providing scalable bandwidth from 1 Mbps up to 10 Gigabits-per-second (Gbps) in more than 20 major US markets.  For more information, call 866-429-3085 or visit Comcast Cable  Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is one of the nation's leading providers of entertainment, information and communications products and services. Comcast is principally involved in the operation of cable systems through Comcast Cable and in the development, production and distribution of entertainment, news, sports and other content for global audiences through NBCUniversal. Comcast Cable is one of the nation's largest video, high-speed Internet and phone providers to residential and business customers. Comcast is the majority owner and manager of NBCUniversal, which owns and operates entertainment and news cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, local television station groups, television production operations, a major motion picture company and theme parks.
The interoperability model works
The past several months have been quite hectic. I traveled around the world to talk about the state of Ethernet, and while going around the world can be challenging enough, the Ethernet community is simply in a state of activity I have not seen before.Development, adoption, deployment, looking to the future—considering Gigabit Ethernet, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, 100 Gigabit Ethernet, and the future 400 Gigabit Ethernet—all of this happening right now.In the past my involvement in the IEEE during the development of the respective standards probably preoccupied my focus, as it occupied much of my attention. At other times during my involvement in alliances my time was pre-occupied with interoperability demonstrations that targeted various technologies as being ready for adoption and deployment. Now as I find my time occupied by responsibilities to the IEEE and Ethernet Alliance, I feel like the linkages between the two worlds are more obvious to me than they were before.For example, consider the findings of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment that was published this summer. After a year-long industry wide study, it was determined that the average growth rate of doubling approximately every 18 months or a compound annual growth rate of 58 percent was still a reasonable approximation. In simple terms, this translates to networks, on average, needing to support bandwidth capacity requirements of a terabit per second in 2015 and 10 terabit in 2020.Such bandwidth requirements do not just happen, though. Demand is distributed throughout the entire eco-system, and as the bandwidth capacity requirement of the network core goes up, one should expect the capacity of the underlying eco-system to also be increasing. Demonstrated interoperability leads to confidence which leads to deployment which leads to volume leading to further cost reductions leading to further deployment. At least that's the model we all believe, right?Well it seems to be working..... finally...I was talking with Seamus Crehan of Crehan Research, who was very kind to share some very interesting numbers with me for a presentation I was doing (see the presentation here). In the second quarter of this year, almost two million 10GbE server ports and adapters were shipped. Furthermore, the number of 10BASE-T ports shipped in the second quarter grew by amost 400 percent over the first quarter.  Finally, the start of the hockey stick! And while 100 Gigabit Ethernet is finding its way into service provider networkers, 40 Gigabit Ethernet is ramping up in data center networks. Next time, I'll talk about the expansion of the 40 GbE and 100 GbE families, and the start of 400 Gigabit Ethernet. 
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