Like many technologies making waves in the industry today, 10Gbps Ethernet has actually been with us for quite a long time. It was first introduced around a decade ago but, to be honest, it had jumped the gun a little because back then there were no real drivers for its adoption.
Virtualisation was in its infancy, the business benefits and ramifications of cloud computing were only just being discussed, and advanced mobile technologies, social networking and big data were barely even a reality. Today, however, it represents a huge opportunity for the channel – not just an opportunity but a necessity, because 10GbE is the gateway to all the technologies and services which resellers are currently trying to fashion their long-term growth strategies around.
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So what are the key drivers for 10GbE today? It’ll come as no surprise that virtualisation is very much front and centre. Firms across the globe are virtualising their server and desktop environments at a rapid pace. According to our data, virtualisation revenues jumped by a third from 2011-12 to £205.6m in the UK and Ireland, with firms lured by the prospect of reducing their hardware footprint, improving IT efficiency and cutting costs.
But as virtual machine densities grow larger and larger – currently they outnumber physical servers by nearly 7:1 – so does the input/output requirement. Put simply, more virtual machines means a faster network is needed in the data centre.
Another key driver is the rise of advanced mobile technologies. Some operators are already talking about 40Gb or even 100Gb solutions which traditional 1GbE pipes simply can’t support cost effectively. Intel is also helping drive the 10GbE trend by supporting PCIe3 technologies in its new platforms, allowing 4 channels of 10GbE to be converged into one channel of 40GbE. In the storage sphere too companies are finding only 10GbE is able to adequately support the growing trend towards converged networking and help them cut costs, simplify management and reduce their physical footprint.
Network attached storage (NAS) revenues went up 10 per cent from 2011 to 2012, that’s £20.5m revenues in the UK and Ireland, while storage area network (SAN) revenues jumped an impressive 16 per cent to £101.6m revenues in the UK and Ireland. The growth in popularity of Voice over IP, cloud and big data – all bandwidth-hungry services – is another major driver.
But we can’t ignore the role of flash-based solid-state drives, increasingly integrated into the storage layer and often supporting workload requirements of extremely fast read and write I/O.
So what does all of this mean for the channel? Well 10GbE is a sales opportunity in its own right; revenue for 10GbE switches alone jumped by 33 per cent to £7m revenues in sales through distribution from 2011-12 in the UK and Ireland.
SMEs in particular are beginning to see the value of the technology – anything that reduces the number of cables and switches and supports transformational business technologies like virtualisation only needs to come in at the right price and they’ll be sold.
The Ethernet tech represents something of a gateway for channel firms – an enabler for the kind of products and services they want to sell more of, in areas such as cloud, virtualisation, big data and so on. 10GbE is at the centre of all these technology trends so important to future business growth, for the channel and its customers. As such it’s the perfect opportunity for most resellers to turn their back on the box-shifting commoditised end of the market and reinvent themselves as sellers of value-added services.
It won’t be all plain sailing. Prices can still be on the high side, and the major 10GbE vendors are not exactly household names: think Melanox and Emulex rather than HP, Dell et al. But by crafting the right approach, partnering up with the right vendors to build out 10GbE-based technology solutions, resellers have a real opportunity to ride the coming wave and serve not only the market looking to replace its old networking pipes but the growing demand for new data centres fitted out with the latest infrastructure which can support greater data processing and storage requirements. ®