Cisco’s Approach to 25Gbps: Why It Matters

By John Ciarlone, Hummingbird Networks

Currently, there is something of a gap in network speeds.  More of a gulf, really.  For larger businesses looking to invest in high-speed networking, the major choices at the moment are either 10Gbps… or 100Gbps.  There is, obviously, a vast difference in price and implementation difficulty between these speeds, especially as 100Gbps is currently aimed only at the largest of enterprises and service-based providers.

So for larger enterprises whose needs were growing beyond what 10Gbps could offer, the options were limited.  Bundling services and hardware allows for speeds up to 40Gbps, but that involves significant redundancies and increased cabling requirements, reducing its cost-effectiveness.

However, a new collation has arisen, promoting 25Gbps chipsets, which can also be doubled to 50Gbps.  The 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium began in 2014 with Google, Microsoft, and Broadcom seeking new and better upgrade paths for their operations and their clients, and has quickly picked up steam.  With the new announcement that Cisco has joined in, along with Arista and Dell, 25Gbps seems to be a standard worth discussing.

25Gbps:  Your New Upgrade Path?
Cisco’s decision to join into the 25 Gigabit consortium signals that its time may have truly come, especially given Cisco’s new emphasis on software-defined networking (SDN) and SD-WAN.  25Gb speeds give virtualized software-based systems plenty of room to breathe, and the option to move up to 50Gb creates an obvious upgrade path from 10Gbps.

This is largely thanks to the new Broadcom Tomahawk chipset, which is designed specifically for SDN systems at 25, 50, or 100Gbpsspeeds.  It’s capable of up to 3.2Tbps in switching capacity, bringing 25Gbps speeds to every lane.  It can reduce cabling requirements by up to 75%, as compared to 40Gbps connections.

In fact, 100Gbps connections are simply four 25Gbps streams working in parallel, so splitting them into separate connections is an obvious choice.  This single chipset allows for a simple upgrade path up to current top-grade speeds, without burdening operations that don’t have a need for 100Gbps yet.

By embracing Tomahawk, Cisco and Dell are creating networking opportunities appropriate for a wide range of large-scale operations.

Coming Soon To Equipment Near You
Is it time to invest?  Well, not quite.  25G just began rolling out at the end of 2015, with only around 2,500 units sold in the last quarter of the year.  However, based on the widespread demand for networks in this speed range, analysts are estimating it could account for up to 10% of ports shipped worldwide by 2019.

Plus, of course, data demands are only going to grow in the years to come.  4K video is already here, and 8K isn’t far behind, with both consumers and businesses alike quickly adopting ultra high-resolution videos.   Likewise, demand in the consumer sector for video games with 4K+ graphics and robust multiplayer capabilities will be putting additional strain on service providers attempting to keep data flowing smoothly with minimum lag.
Even if there doesn’t seem to be much demand for 25Gbps now, that demand will undoubtedly be there soon enough.

In the meantime, if you’re one of those organizations on that borderline where 10Gbps is too slow, 40Gbps is too obfuscated, and100Gbps is simply too much, please consider contacting Hummingbird Networks.  We can discuss whether you’re ready to become one of the early adopters of this hot new standard.

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