Virtualization proliferation, the ever increasing number of VMs being used per physical server, is going strong and not showing any signs of abating. As CPUs ship with larger numbers of increasingly powerful cores and the servers themselves get ever growing amounts of RAM, the number of VMs that each physical server can support is increasing. This is fine, but many servers are equipped with 1GbE connectivity, either through LAN on Motherboard (LoM) or add-on Network Interface Cards (NICs). When there were only a few VMs per machine, 1GbE (or even 4xGbE) was usually enough bandwidth for most applications. However, now when there are not just a handful but in many cases 10s of VMs per physical host, even quad GbE NICs start to become a bottleneck. It isn’t turtles all the way down, after all, but rather all this virtualization ultimately lives on hardware and that hardware ultimately needs a network connection of some sort.
One way around this is to upgrade to servers with 10GBASE-T, 10 Gigabit copper. Last year Intel announced 10 Gig copper LoM based on their X540 Ethernet Controller. A timely announcement as Dell’Oro predicts that 10GBASE-T will be the primary choice for cloud and data center network upgrades in the next two years.
Of course, when upgrading a data center, maintaining some sort of backwards compatibility is usually a win for a couple reasons. One is that it allows you to leverage existing cabling, which is costly and high impact to change. The other is that backwards compatibility allows for simpler networks and network administration.
Consider a DC that is going to migrate to 10GBASE-T. That migration is probably not going to happen overnight, it is probably going to happen in stages and it would probably be nice to be able to do it gradually over time. One approach would be to use the BlackDiamond X8 with 48 port 10GBase-T blades, which are now GA. With the ability to handle 10Gig, 1 Gig and even 100 Megabit Ethernet all over the same existing RJ-45 cabling, it is now possible to start upgrading servers one by one without having to worry about cable or switching infrastructure. Power down, unplug, pull out, replace, plug in, power up, done. Auto-negotiate in the copper blade means that the upgrade truly is plug and play.
But don’t just take our word for it, go have a look at what Intel thinks in the whitepaper we did with them, “Driving 10 Gigabit Ethernet Adoption in the Data Center.”