The lowdown on 10-Gigabit Ethernet switches

What is it? A 10-Gigabit Ethernet switch is built to handle 10-Gbps speeds in its switching fabric. Most also bundle multiple Gigabit Ethernet and Fast Ethernet slots as well.

When do I need one? Essentially, when the capacity of your aggregated network segments exceeds the capacity of your switches to manage them. But if you don't need 10-Gigabit now, you will eventually. Users want high-speed applications such as video, voice, peer-to-peer file sharing and 3-D imaging. Data centers and server clusters are using high-speed Gigabit links to the outside world and for grid computing. And the most advanced storage applications will sag without high-speed network uplinks to support them.

How much do they cost? Plenty. A basic switch chassis loaded with one 10-Gigabit module usually costs in excess of $20,000. Depending on the number of slots it includes and the number and types of line cards it holds, a 10-Gbps Ethernet switch can cost more than $100,000.

Must-know info? Vendors have been cutting per-port prices in an attempt to generate sales. 10-Gigabit Ethernet systems are the wave of the future and present users with the simplest and most cost-effective options for network upgrades.

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