Gigabit Ethernet making inroads in the Australian enterprise

The prevalence of Gigabit Ethernet deployments in the Australian enterprise is growing and starting to take hold, with its spread being helped along by increasing sales of gigabit-equipped PCs.

Gartner analyst Eric Zwar said Gigabit Ethernet is widely deployed in the enterprise now. "It is a well entrenched technology."

He said Gigabit Ethernet deployments, which transfer data at 1Gbps, are visible in select environments where high bandwidth is needed. Examples include the film industry, which needs gigabit connectivity for bandwidth intensive applications like animation, graphics and multimedia; and the medical industry for applications such as Xrays and medical imaging.

In the back office Cisco continues to lead the pack, according to Joel Martin, IDC's research director, infrastructure and communications. He said it was "way ahead" of Enterasys, Nortel, 3Com and HP which all have dominant positions in the Australian LAN switching market.

Martin said Gigabit Ethernet in the Australian marketplace has been growing steadily, but in 2004 to 2007 he said we can expect to see "very strong" growth, because it will have been built into the edge of the network.

Initially, Martin said, there was too much cost and hassle for IT staff to go to each computer on a network and install Gigabit Ethernet cards.

But today the uptake of Gigabit Ethernet in networks is fuelled by the fact that an increasing number of PCs have network interface cards built into the computer's motherboard. This is also known as LAN on Motherboard (LOM).

He said this is becoming more prevalent as companies are going through their first PC refresh since Y2K. This means many of the new PCs will have a Gigabit LAN on the motherboard. "Gigabit will be built into the desktop even if they don’t have it at the core," he said.

Dell's mainstream corporate desktop, the OptiPlex GX270, and preceding this model the OptiPlex GX260, come with standard integrated Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. "We've seen approximately 39 per cent growth since last year in this PC market space," said Nicole Gemmell, corporate communications manager.

Its rival, IBM, does not break out its figures but the company said it does see the shipping of PCs with Gigabit connectivity increasing rapidly. "It is definitely up from 2002 and we see it increasing in 2004, IBM spokesperson Jennifer Arnold said.

HP was just as reticent. However, the HP Compaq Business Desktops d530 and d330 feature integrated gigabit connectivity. Legacy 10/100Mbps systems (and new desktops without gigabit connectivity) can be upgraded using Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit NICs. Most of HP's ProLiant servers now ship with gigabit connectivity.

However, Zwar said that installation of Gigabit Ethernet is also dependent on a company's LAN infrastructure, namely its cabling. Gigabit Ethernet although designed to run on fibre networks, can now run over copper, making it a reality for most organisations. "Now that copper Category 5e and Category 6 supports Gigabit Ethernet... the deployment is not constrictive," he said.

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