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25G Ethernet vs 40G Ethernet: Which to Choose?

In today’s ever evolving data center, the growth in demand for bandwidth can be achieved by a shift to higher transmission speed-100G. To upgrade to 100G, there’re two approaches, 10G to 40G to 100G and 10G to 25G to 100G. So which one should you choose? Here focuses on 25G Ethernet and 40G Ethernet, and makes a comparison in the application, network switch selection and cabling to help users make a wise decision.

25G Ethernet vs 40G Ethernet

Figure 1: 25G vs 40G, which one to choose?

25G Ethernet Overview

25G Ethernet standard was put forward by the 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium, which consists of leading companies including Arista, Broadcom, Google, Mellanox Technologies and Microsoft in 2014. The goal is to promote the standardization and use of 25G Ethernet. Since the business needs to upgrade constantly, 10G network will be replaced in the future. Up to till now, 25G products like 25G switch or SFP28, 25G DAC and AOC cables have received more and more recognition. Many providers like Brocade, Dell and FS have published 25GbE switches to achieve the optimized network performance. These 25G network switches are often used as the ToR or leaf switches to connect the servers and terminal equipment. 25G Ethernet is an incremental update from 10G Ethernet. So for 25G and 10G Ethernet switches with the same port density, 25G switches and optics provide 2.5 times more performance and bandwidth than 10G Ethernet solution, which helps reduce the power and cost.

40G Ethernet Overview

Official development of 40G Gigabit Ethernet began in 2008, and is approved in 2010. 40G Gigabit Ethernet (40GbE) is a standard developed by the IEEE 802.3ba Task Force. It enables the transfer of Ethernet frames at 40 Gigabit per second. 40GbE runs on Quad Small Form Factor Pluggable (QSFP+) cabling, which can support high-bandwidth applications like video on demand and high-performance computing. Compared with 25G Ethernet, 40G standard is more mature. There’re many types of products for 40G applications, including MTP/MPO trunk cable assemblies, 40G QSFP+ optical transceivers and 40Gb switch, which are widely used for networking. In data centers, 40G switches are used as the aggregation/leaf switches, while they can act as core/spine switches for small and medium enterprises. When upgrading 10G to 40G Ethernet, users can use 40G QSFP+ to 4x10G SFP+ DAC/AOC cables to achieve this upgrade, or choose MTP/MPO to LC breakout cables and 40G transceivers solution according to their actual budget and transmission distance. For connecting two 40GbE switches, they need to choose MTP/MPO trunk cables or 40G QSFP+ to QSFP+ DAC/AOC cables.

25G vs 40G Ethernet: Which to Choose?

There’re some factors that you should consider before making the final decision.

Application

Generally, IT staff uses 25G Ethernet for switch to server applications, while use 40G for switch to switch applications. Thus, users should know their specific practices before designing the network.

Network Switch Selection

25G and 40Gnetwork switches are designed to meet customers’ different uses. But note that, 25G can be more easily upgraded to 50G (2x25G) and 100G (4x25G). Due to the high performance 25G chips with single-lane 25G serializer-deserializer technology, the port density and total broadband of 25G switch is higher than 40G switch when both 25G and 40G switches use the chip with 128 channels (see the following table). And it also can save captial expenditure and operating expenses.

Speed of port
Channel rate (Gb/s)
Number of channels per port
Available port
Total broadband (Gb/s)
10G
10
1
128
1280
25G
25
1
128
3200
40G
10
4
32
1280
100G
25
4
32
3200
Cabling

25G Ethernet uses the SFP28 form factors. Note that, 25GBASE-SR SFP28 transceiver module is a working wavelength of 850nm 25G fiber transceiver. It’s a vertical cavity surface emitting laser. Thus, this optical module needs to be connected with OM3 and OM4 fibers. For interconnections in data center switches, using SFP28 DAC/AOC cables is a more suitable and cost-effective solution than using 25G transceivers. But note that, the DAC/AOC cables’ lengths are limited. Because performance of these cables may be affected if they are too long ( FS recommends the max length to use DAC is 10m, while AOC is 30m). When upgrading 10G to 25G, users just need to upgrade 10G SFP+ to SFP28 transceivers. Because they can reuse the existing cabling while still achieve higher bandwidths, avoiding costly and complex changes.

On the other hand, 40G Ethernet commonly uses QSFP+ transceiver form factor. This kind of transceiver has four optical signal transmission channels and receiving channels, which can support single mode and multimode MTP/MPO cables and copper cabling. Specific cabling of 40G Ethernet is shown in figure 2. But note that, the option that uses 40G transceivers with single mode cabling is typically not applied in data centers. Because it’s built for long distances. Thus the use of OM3 and OM4 is a more favored cabling solution.

40G cabling

Figure 2: 40G Ethernet cabling.

Conclusion

Both 25G Ethernet and 40G Ethernet are the solutions to implement more robust and cost-effective networks. They can be applied in data centers with different uses and cabling solutions. So users should choose one depends on the actual demand and usage environment. At FS, we offer our customers a variety of 25G and 40G networking products with good quality, to help you build a good network.

Is MLAG an Alternative to Stackable Switches?

With the demands for resiliency and security for today’s networks, modern enterprises and data center networks are becoming more complex to manage and operate. MLAG and stacking both are the scalable solutions that can reduce network complexity and improve network performance. Are they the same? Can users consider MLAG as an alternative to stacking switches? This article explains this through introducing MLAG and stackable switches, and the difference.

MLAG Explained

MLAG refers to multi-chassis link aggregation group, which is a technique used on network switches to enable the fast and inexpensive transmission of bulk data. It enables a server or network switch with a two-port bond, such as LAG, EtherChannel, port group or trunk, to connect those ports to different switches and operate as if they are connected to a single, logical network switch. MLAG can provide redundancy and system throughput. The following is an MLAG example. If switch A breaks down, the servers can still access the network because all the data will be transferred through switch B by MLAG. MLAG implements a backup link aggregation group between switch A and switch B to improve network reliability.

MLAG

Figure 1: MLAG example.

Stackable Switch Explained

Stackable switches are a type of network switches that are designed to be stacked on top of one another by connecting the stackwise ports or uplink ports. They are the two common ways of stacking switches. For example, Cisco 3750 series switches need to be stacked by using stacking cables to connect the stackwise ports. But for FS S3900 series switches, users can use fiber patch cable and fiber transceiver, or the DAC cable to connect the uplink ports of the stackable switches. These stacking switches tend to have the ability to be placed in networking closets and stand alone. Usually, the stacked switches in a group share a single IP address. This means network management will be simplified since any configuration changes can be done once (commonly in the master switch), and are automatically applied in other switches. But note that stacking in networking is typically deployed among network switches in the same product series of the suppliers. As figure 2 shows, the 4 24 port switches can be stacked and behave as one. Depending on its topology, this stack can continue to transfer data when one 24 port switch fails. This makes switch stacking a flexible and scalable solution to expand network capacity.

stacking

Figure 2: Four 24 port switches can be stacked together.

What’s the Difference?

Both MLAG and switch stacking allow multiple switches to act as one by sharing information. But they are different technologies with their own pros and cons.

MLAG provides higher bandwidth links as network traffic increases. And the traffic is more evenly distributed to each switch by using LAG hashing. Each switch is independently able for forwarding traffic without passing to a master switch. MLAG can expand port capacity beyond the limitation of switch stacking. However, MLAG configuration is more complex that users have to configure each switch individually.

On the other hand, the configuration of switch stacking is simpler since all the configurations can be done in the master switch. The ports density can be increased by adding another Gigabit Ethernet switch to the stack. This is more suitable for small sites. And it makes sense to be used at the edge where the control plane services are not required for the full functioning of the network. However, the number of switches that can be stacked is limited. This maximum number can be 6,8,12,16, etc. Stacking in networking creates more inter-switch communications when compared to the ISC for MLAG. Besides, switch stacking can only increase the port density but not the bandwidth.

Which to Choose?

MLAG and switch stacking can improve the performance of data transmission, but have their own pros and cons. MLAG is a useful technology to present diverse physical paths to hosts, which is regarded as a tool for eliminating blocked links due to spanning-tree, and increasing bandwidth. While switch stacking can expand the port density and capacity, making the configurations and management easier. Therefore, users should choose one solution based on the actual needs. For users who need to increase bandwidth or require multi-path architecture for application servers, they’d better use MLAG. But for the users who desire for a simpler network configuration and management, or the connecting distance is limited by the stacking cables’ length, then stacking switches that deployed in one closet or the neighboring closets is a wise choice.

To meet different networking demands, FS offers both MLAG and stacking solution. The S5800, S5850, S8050, N5850 series switches support MLAG, ranging from 10G to 100G transmission speed. With the support of MLAG, these network switches provide redundancy protection for your networks. FS S3900 series switches are stackable switches with 24 or 48 ports, including both fiber and Ethertnet ports. They offer easy and convenient management for network administrators without lowering its performance. If you still have problems when choosing, please feel free to get help through [email protected]

Web-scale vs Hyperconverged Infrastructure: What Is the Difference?

As virtualization in general becomes increasingly commonplace in the enterprise, IT organizations need new solutions architectures to optimize the networks in scalability and management. Web-scale and hyperconverged infrastructures are the two approaches, which can offer the benefits of scaling up networks and simplifying configurations. However, what is the difference between web-scale and hyperconverged architectures? To make this out, you should know the basic information of the two infrastructures, and then make a wise decision.

What Is Web-scale Infrastructure?

Web-scale architecture describes computing environments that allow applications to be decomposed into web services. Essentially, a web-scale network acts as a single unit which can grow and change based on network demands, without the need to manually reconfigure multiple network switches. Note that, the primary way web-scale networks achieve this flexibility and automation is through decoupling the hardware (physical network switch) and software (network operating system). Thus, customers are no longer locked into one vendor’s hardware. They are free to choose the bare metal hardware (like a Gigabit Ethernet switch) and software by themselves, or buy a switch preloaded with open source software. For example, FS has released N-series data center switches (include 10GbE/40GbE/100GbE switch) with Cumulus Linux. Therefore, with web-scale networks, users can enjoy an open network, which offers freedom to choose their switch hardware, software and applications. This can greatly reduce operation cost, increase working efficiency and avoid vendor lock-in.

What Is Hyperconverged Infrastructure?

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is an IT framework that combines data center’s necessary components like storage, computing and networking into a single pre-packaged unit system, so as to reduce data center complexity. As the figure shown below, compared with the traditional data center architecture, hyperconverged mode removes the SAN completely. The hypervisor, server, and storage are now all fused into a single appliance called node. Additional capacity can be added just by deploying another node. All the nodes can provide computing and storage resources, supporting online horizontal expansions. For IT, the most advantage of HCI is the ability to consolidate multiple IT functions like backup, deduplication and WAN optimization into the same platform. In addition, nodes expansions and preconfigured arrangements offer higher resiliency and greatly reduce setup time. Currently, the market leaders of hyperconvergence include Nutanix, VCE and HPE. Dell, Lenovo are also building a presence in the hyperconverged market.

web-scale vs hyperconverged

Web-scale vs Hyperconverged Infrastructure: What Is the Difference?

The following are the major architectural factors that differentiate web-scale from hyperconverged deployments.

The layer of abstraction-software vs hardware

Web-scale deployments rely on software abstractions. This is mainly because hardware abstractions impose strict consistency requirements, which are extremely difficult to scale. Meanwhile, software abstractions can be tuned for a specific workload, providing reduced consistency and scale while preserving performance and availability. And web-scale companies sometimes combine compute and storage for given services, but usually divide applications into different services. Therefore, in many cases, different services may have completely separate hardware to suit a specific application. For instance, Facebook and Google have all publicly declared that they use different hardware for the appropriate service.

Hyperconverged system use virtual disks over SCSI or SATA to provide a reliable hardware abstraction by replicating between machines. This reliable hardware layer sits beneath the application software. Storage and computing is consolidated on the same machine. The environment is designed to get rid of the constraints of custom hardware, decoupling software and hardware.

Custom vs commodity hardware

Web-scale infrastructure relies on custom hardware. Web-scale companies prefer to use custom devices since they can suit the specific applications requirements or the reduced overall cost. For example, Amazon has stated that it uses custom hardware configurations and switches to fit its data center requirements.

On the other hand, hyperconverged infrastructure uses commodity hardware. In many cases, hyperconverged vendors encourage customer to buy off-the-shelf, mass-produced servers from hardware integrators. This approach is considered as a way to reduce cost.

In addition, hyperconverged infrastructure eliminates the need for separate storage like a SAN. This helps lower the space and power requirement while simplifying infrastructure buying. IT environments can be scaled in small increments through adding nodes as needed. Web-scale systems are 100% software defined based infrastructures. There is no reliance on hardware for resilience, performance acceleration or any core functions.

Which One to Choose?

From the above, we know web-scale infrastructure heavily relies on hardware customization. It uses software abstractions provided by applications for scale. Hardware and applications are heavily coupled and customized for the specific network environments. While hyperconverged infrastructure is built on commodity hardware, providing strong separation between software and hardware.

So which one could you choose? If you’re not operating at the scale of Google or Amazon, web-scale system may won’t work for this environment. Because the cost of the tight integration of hardware and software will be expensive. Besides, web-scale infrastructure requires IT persons have the knowledge of system operations. This is also a matter. Thus, for the small or medium office environment, hyperconverged system is the wise choice. And web-scale system is suited for large dynamic environment. Therefore, making the best decision based on your network needs.

Open Source vs Proprietary Software: Which Is Better?

Open source software allows the source code to be shared, viewed and modified by users, while proprietary software doesn’t. Open source software provides more flexibilities like programming the network or adding applications, but proprietary is designed for out-of-the-box usage. When it comes to choosing one for business purposes, IT staff generally come across the question, open source vs proprietary software, which is better? To find this out, make sure you know the basic information and differences between the open source and proprietary software.

Open Source vs Proprietary Software

What Is Open source Software?

Open source software (OSS) is often regarded as free software. The word free means it gives users the freedom to run it, study it and change it, meanwhile users also can redistribute copies with or without changes. In other words, OSS is software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify and enhance. For example, as for open networking, the open source software can be installed on a bare metal hardware such as a Gigabit Ethernet switch so as to make the network switch “do things” like developing software, running application and more. With open source software, IT organizations have the flexibility to write and add applications, or modify the source code and update setting without waiting for the vendors’ permissions, which can increase working efficiency and avoid vendor lock-in. Besides, users have a more flexible choice that they can install open source software by themselves or buy a network switch preloaded with open source software.

What Is Proprietary Software?

In contrast, proprietary software could be considered as closed software, the source code for which is closed and proprietary. Usually, proprietary software is installed on hardware, and the combination is generally sold as a commercial product for users. In this way, users can not get one without the other one. For instance, if someone wants to buy Cisco Catalyst 6500 series switches, he has to pay for both the hardware (physical switch) and software (Cisco IOS). Using proprietary software, users can enjoy a “one stop shopping” experience whereby a single vendor can offer all the applications and tools you need, and the routine updates are also included. Besides, it’s designed for out-of-the-box usage without programming requirements.

Open Source vs Proprietary Software: Difference

Generally, the differences between open source vs proprietary software come down to a few factors.

Cost

This is the most obvious difference. If one user decides to buy a 24 port managed switch, there is no doubt that he would spend more for a traditional network switch. Because IT person can choose a cheaper bare metal switch of the same type, and cheaper open source software. Thus, with open source software, the total cost is much lower, which helps reduce initial investment. However, customers should notice that open source software like Cumulus Linux requires a certain level of specialized skill to operate and maintain it.

For proprietary software, the cost varies greatly depending on the complexity of the software and hardware since it’s always sold with the hardware. For example, due to different software (ICOS system, ZebOS system) and hardware chips (Microsemi, Broadcom ), the cost of 10Gb Ethernet switch on the market varies greatly.

Usability

Open source software offers a high level of flexibility and freedom to change the applications without restriction. But Open source software is not being straightforward to use. Open source operating system like Cumulus Linux can not be learned in one day. Customers need to learn the control programming language or operations first. In addition, before you buy the open source software, you have to check whether your hardware is compatible with the open source platform.

As mentioned above, proprietary software is designed for out-of-the-box usage, so it doesn’t require programming. And customers can receive professional support and routine upgrades from the vendors, which is a key selling point for users with little technical skills. However, proprietary software only allows users to add the applications that have been authorized, which is a big drawback for some engineers.

Flexibility

It’s no doubt that this is the biggest advantage of open source software. Customers can modify the function and add community-created modifications or features to suit their network needs, which tends to scale up easier. In addition, customers’ choices become more flexible. They can buy a bare metal switch and the third party open source software, or they can choose a brite box switch from some vendors such as FS. FS N-series switches have been preloaded with Cumulus Linux, providing advanced features like EVPN, MLAG SNMP etc. And customers can receive one-stop tech support from FS and Cumulus. On the other hand, proprietary software is restricted by vendors, and the flexibility only extends to the front-end because the functions are limited to what has been programmed.

Open Source vs Proprietary Software: Which Is Better?

As for open source vs proprietary software, the differences are fairly straightforward and there are clear pros and cons for each. Open source software offers more flexibility for IT staff to add or modify applications with lower cost, which avoid vendor lock-in. But it requires the IT persons to know the software operations such as Linux, which is quite well for the organizations with the experts who can operate Linux. While proprietary software offers “one stop shop” support for customers, which is easier to work with for those who don’t know how to run Linux. Therefore, the wise choice should base on your company’s needs.

Which Ethernet Cable type should you use?

When it comes to using Ethernet cables to build any connection, whether for a home or office, selecting a quality network cable is a confusing job as all wires are not the same. Cat5e, Cat6 or Cat7, which Ethernet cable type should you choose? To work this out, here is what you need to know.

Ethernet cable type

Different Speeds of Ethernet Cable Type

Ethernet cable type has been evolving since the beginning of the Ethernet standard in 1985. Many different Ethernet cable types have been developed, such as Cat5e Ethernet cable, Cat7, etc. They look very similar from the outside, and any of them can be plugged into an Ethernet port, allowing users to have Internet access or interact with shared network resources. However, they are designed with different transmission speeds. The following table lists the different speeds of the Ethernet cable type.

Category Bandwidth Speed Max Distance
Cat5e 100MHz 1000Mbps 100m
Cat6 250MHz 1000Mbps/10Gbps 1000Mbps for 100m and 10Gbps for 55m
Cat6a 500MHz 10Gbps 100m
Cat7 600MHz 10Gbps 100m
Cat8 2000MHz 25/40Gbps 40Gbps for 20m

As it can be seen that, as the number of Ethernet cable type gets higher, so does the speed and bandwidth. Cat5e works for 1000Mbps (Gigabit) Ethernet, and it has become the most widely used category on the market. Cat6 Ethernet cable has been improved, including better insulation and thinner wires, which is full-on certified to handle Gigabit speeds. And Cat6 cable is also suitable for 10G uses. Cat6a Ethernet cable is the enhanced version of Cat6, it can support 10Gbps transmission with a higher bandwidth of 500MHz. Cat7 cable is up to 10Gbps, which is more suitable for data centres’ applications. The latest technology Cat8 can be up to 25/40Gbps. It’s more appropriate for professional and commercial installation such as industrial situations or data centres.

Different Designs of Ethernet cable type

Knowing different speeds of Ethernet cable types is not enough when you decide to buy cables, here are another two aspects that also need to be considered.

UTP vs STP

Because all Ethernet cables are twisted, producers use shielding to further protect the cable from interference. This is the direct difference between UTP (unshielded twisted pair) and STP (shielded twisted pair). STP cable is designed to reduce the effect of EMI (electro-magnetic interference). These cables are generally used in places like airports, medical centres or factories. While UTP cables are often installed for home or office uses.

Solid vs Stranded

Solid and stranded Ethernet cables refer to the actual copper conductor in the pairs. Solid cables use a single piece of copper for the electrical conductor, and stranded cables use a series of copper cables twisted together. Solid cables are more durable, which are most often used in permanent installations, with wiring the inside office walls or under floors. On the other hand, stranded Ethernet cables are more flexible and should be used at your desk or anywhere you may be moving the cable around often.

Conclusion

Before setting up an Internet connection, it’s wise to know the different speeds and designs of the various Ethernet cable types. And choose one Ethernet cable type based on your own network need. No matter what your networking needs are, FS is sure to have the suitable category and length Ethernet cables for your connections.

White Box Switch vs Brite Box Switch: Which to Choose?

Open networking means the switch hardware and switch software can be developed independently from each other. With an open networking environment, many organizations have realized open source benefits such as improved flexibility and reduced costs. When IT staff decide to build this open networking, they may come across the word of white box switch or brite box switch. Both the two types of open source switches can be used in data center SDN (software defined network) environment. But what’s the difference between them, and which one should you choose? This is the point here, we will provide some definitions and perspectives so you can make the right choice.

White box switch vs brite box switch

What Is White Box Switch?

White box switch is a by-product of SDN, which decouples the hardware (a bare metal switch) from the NOS. It allows customers to buy open switch hardware and pair it with their preferred networking operating system (NOS) like Cumulus Linux or PicOS. Customers can buy white box switch from hardware suppliers like Accton, Quanta. In its early development, white box switches are popular in the huge scale data centers like Facebook, Google, because they have the technical team who can operate Linux. Therefore, they can configure the hardware and the software by themselves. But today, small and medium organizations also try to introduce white box switch to improve their networks.

What is Brite Box Switch?

The term brite box is a white box switch but with a brand name such as Dell and HP on them. Essentially, people could regard brite box switch as the middle ground between a traditional switch and white box switch. But not that brite box switches are pre-loaded with a vendor’s (e.g. Cumulus Networks or Big Switch Networks) operating system. Thus, using brite box switch, customers can receive professional service from the hardware and software suppliers. And the cost of brite box switch is much cheaper than the traditional switch price. As an open source switch, it allows customers to have the flexibility to choose the software and configure their networks.

White Box switch vs Brite Box Switch: Which to Choose?

The future of open networking lies within the choices of “white” and “brite”. Both of them are open source switches, offering open networking hardware that IT staff can enjoy the flexibility that is expected in a software defined network. With white box and brite box switch, hardware and software are no longer coupled, and as a result, companies can avoid the traditional vendor lock-in which has been a feature of hardware ownership. And note that they may have the same switching chip made by the same producers like Microsemi and can achieve advanced features like MLAG, VxLAN. However, they also have differences as followed.

Technical Support

This is the typical difference between the two open source switches. Brite box switch preloaded with NOS can provide better technical service and support from the vendors, while white box switch is a bare metal switch which requires users to buy NOS by themselves. Therefore, only the hyperscale organizations like Amazon and Facebook have the resources to afford the technology of white box switching, because they have the IT engineers who are familiar with Linux operations. They can run and maintain the NOS by themselves. On the other hand, brite box switch eliminates the need to have a network software team to write an operating system, which is more suitable for small and medium networks without IT engineers. They could get technical help or support from the vendors while enjoying the open source networking.

Cost

The cost of white box switch is cheaper, since customers don’t need to pay for the NOS. They have the freedom to choose a NOS with lower price. Therefore, operating expenditure of white box switch is much lower than that of brite box switch.

Conclusion

Choosing a white box switch or brite box switch, organizations should make the decision based on their own conditions. For large data centers, white box switch is a nice choice since they have the experts who can operate Linux, while brite box switches are suitable for small and medium organizations since they can offer professional software support.

To satisfy customers’ various demands, FS has released N-series open network data switch with Cumulus Linux, which can receive professional support from FS and Cumulus. If you have more questions about open networking, please contact us through [email protected] We are the reliable networking solution supplier, including a broad portfolio of network switches that range from Gigabit Ethernet switch to 10G/25G/100G switch, and based on the ports there are 8 port switch, 24 port switch, 32 port switch and 48 port switch.


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