Friday, October 15, 2010

Will 10GBASE-T Slow SFP+'s Growth in the Data Center?

By Lisa Huff

SFP+ is primarily being used in two markets currently – 10G Ethernet and 8G Fibre Channel. The Fibre Channel market is almost exclusively optical SFP+ modules while, the 10G Ethernet market is expected to see its largest growth in SFP+ direct-attach copper (DAC) products. SFP+ DAC will mainly be used in top-of-rack (ToR) switches that connect to servers within a rack. Multi-million port forecasts that are predicted over the next few years are predicated on an anticipated high-rate of adoption of this architecture in the data center. Even if this topology is used, once 10GBASE-T becomes more readily available, SFP+ DAC will be sharing its market with this less costly variant. Some OEMs believe quantities of each will be about the same, but I have my doubts. If history tells us anything, which it usually does, once the less expensive BASE-T variant takes hold, it usually pushes the more costly alternatives to much smaller volume.

But, right now it is a matter of timing. I am skeptical that the 10GBASE-T adoption in switches will be able to keep pace with the port-density need in the data center in the short-term. Both products will be needed in the long term – 10GBASE-T for inexpensive connections and 10GBASE-CR (SFP+ DAC) for lower latency, lower power consumption and more flexibility. Currently, if you want both copper and fiber ports on your 10G switch, you need to use SFP+ because there are no switches that contain both 10GBASE-T and optical.

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