August 30, 2016

Gigabit Ethernet Versus 10 GbE: What’s Best For Small Businesses?

By Andrew Burton
TechnicalDatto WiFi

Gigabit Ethernet networks have been popular among small to mid-sized businesses for nearly a decade. For many, Gigabit Ethernet performance has been completely adequate. More recently, however, 10 Gigabit Ethernet adoption has risen among smaller businesses. In a recent survey conducted by networking vendor Netgear, 75 percent of SMBs said they would deploy 10 GbE in their networks by the end of 2017. Why? Mainly because Gigabit Ethernet is struggling to keep up with business computing needs — particularly in virtualized environments. And, as its name implies, 10 GbE is ten times faster than Gigabit Ethernet.

Historically, network throughput outpaced server and storage performance. Today’s servers, which are designed to run many virtual machines, deliver very high performance, and modern networked storage systems offer high input/output per second (IOPS) using flash and high-performance disk drives. These hardware improvements have pushed the performance bottleneck out to the network. So, to improve the performance of resource hungry applications like virtualization and backup, SMBs are turning to 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

Not long ago, 10 GbE was outside the budgets of most small businesses, but that’s no longer the case. Today, affordable 10 GbE networking gear that meets the needs of small businesses is widely available. For example, search for 10 GigE switches, and you’ll find a variety priced below $1,000. And these days, many servers and storage devices aimed at small businesses have motherboard support for the protocol and ship with 10 GbE NICs.

There are a variety of cable types available that support 10 GbE, varyings in terms of cost, interconnect distance, latency, reliability, and backwards compatibility. In the early days of 10 GbE, users had to rely on expensive optical fiber cabling, which limited adoption among small to mid-sized businesses. Today, affordable 10GBase-T copper cabling can be used. Ten GbE can run over Cat 5e cables, at least over short distances. For longer distances, Cat 6 cables are required. Depending on the specifics of your environment, 10 GbE can also simplify cable management compared with Gigabit Ethernet.

The demands of modern business applications, along with falling costs of networking gear, has created a sort of perfect storm for 10 GbE adoption among SMBs. That’s why Datto SIRIS 3 devices feature dual 10 GbE NICs on a dedicated PCI Express lane. This offers businesses the bandwidth they need for fast backup restore, even in virtualized environments with large VMDK files.

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