Networking

Do you need 10 Gigabit Ethernet?

Although the original standard was published in 2002, it’s only more recently that 10 Gigabit Ethernet has started to gain traction. As the name suggests, the networking standard is 10 times faster than the current ubiquitous Gigabit Ethernet standard. But, do you really need these speeds, and what hardware do you need to get it working reliably?

Not for clients

The truth is that, a few specialist cases aside, such as high-end graphics development, your average desktop computer doesn’t need a 10Gbit/s connection. In fact, many computers would struggle to use the full bandwidth, which comes in at a quick 1,250-megabytes per second (MB/s). Currently, Gigabit Ethernet (1Gbit/s or 125MB/s) is more than fast enough for any application.

That doesn’t mean that 10 Gigabit Ethernet is pointless. In fact, it’s going to become an increasing requirement for modern businesses. Thanks to higher internet speeds, more cloud services, and more intensive applications running on servers, computers are starting to use a lot more data.

With everything running at 1Gbit/s, bottlenecks can soon develop. For example, in a business network where there are 10 computers all trying to talk to a server cluster, they have to share the bandwidth, effectively giving each computer a throughput of 100Mbit/s. Up that to 100 computers, and each is only getting 10Mbit/s. Suddenly, Gigabit Ethernet doesn’t seem so fast, and 10Gbit Ethernet starts to look like a winner.

Faster backbones

One of the main uses for 10 Gigabit Ethernet is as a backbone to your business. Several clients may be connected via Gigabit Ethernet to a switch, but the data connection to your server room could be upgraded to 10 Gigabit Ethernet. This relieves pressure and speeds up access to critical services around your company.

Installing 10 Gigabit Ethernet in the right locations, then, can work to alleviate bottlenecks and give a perceived speed boost to your computers. It’s sensible to monitor your network and work out where crunch points are, so that you can plan where to install 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

Server applications

While general computers may not be able to use a full 10 Gigabit Ethernet, a server may be able to. As a server is often a focal point on a network, a single Gigabit Ethernet connection may not be enough. One solution, in the past, was to combine multiple Gigabit Ethernet ports together to increase bandwidth; a technical solution that isn’t perfect and requires support from the switch that the server is connected to.

Upgrading core servers to use 10 Gigabit Ethernet, such as with the ASUS XG-C100C network card, can alleviate server problems and increase connection speeds for your computers.

What do you need for 10 Gigabit Ethernet?

Gigabit Ethernet can run over fibre and copper cables. For the latter, Cat 6a cabling is required for the full run of 100 metres; Cat 6 cables may reach a distance of 55m, although the quality of the installation has a part to play.

For many businesses, then, the necessary cabling may already be in place. Typically, given the niche requirements of 10 Gigabit Ethernet, a switch that has a majority of Gigabit Ethernet ports, with a couple of 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports should do the job, such as the ASUS XG-U2008, will do the job.

Where cabling is Cat 6 that won’t support 10 Gigabit Ethernet, or Cat 5e cabling, there are two newer standards that still give you a speed boost: 2.5GBASE-T (2.5Gbit/s over copper cable) and 5GBASE-T (5Gbit/s over copper cable). The ASUS XG-C100C network card supports these standards, too. 10 Gigabit Ethernet is not an upgrade for all, but installed in the right locations, it can alleviate problems in an increasingly data-driven world.

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