10Gig ethernet: The holy grail of connectivity

When we dropped in our gigabit ethernet SAN system before Christmas, we were amazed at how seamless we could have multiple FCP editors working with the same footage.  It just worked.

Except when some one was heavily saturating the network by rendering or coping large files to the SAN.  Then it felt like a rerun of Max Headroom with stuttering and dropped frames to the Flanders monitor.

What to do?

I feel the need for speed.  And that can only mean one thing- 10Gig ethernet.

What is 10Gig ethernet?  Today, it’s a faster protocol that is pushed out through add-in cards via fibre optic cables with SFP connectors.  It gives really fast speeds - upward of 350-400 megabit/second reads- without the need of expensive fibre channel solutions.

We started to migrate our system to a 10gig workflow by adding in an Atto NS-14 card into our server.  This is a 4 port 10gig card with SFP connectors that fits into one slot of our SAN server Mac. Port 1 goes to our existing 10gig switch.  Port 2 goes to an Atto NS-14 card in our Edit A MacPro.

The direct 10gig to 10gig connection gives huge speed gains over gigabit over copper ethernet. Amazing.

But we had to drop almost $2300 for both cards and are limited to the distance runs of fibre optic cables with SFP connectors.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get that same performance over copper?  Imagine getting close to 400 megabit speeds via 10gig ethernet over your existing Cat5e/6 cable in your walls? That is Fibre Channel speed with Fibre Channel infrastructure?

It looks like it may happen at NAB 2012.  Small-Tree is set to announce a 10gig over copper switch according to this press release.  I would imagine other vendors in this space would be close behind with their own offerings.

One of the most telling signposts about the evolution of ethernet as a high speed video data protocol can found by watching Avid.  It’s no secret that Avid makes a ton of cash off their network SAN offerings like Unity and ISIS.  Avid recently announced end-of-life to their Unity systems. 

Unity was their Fibre Channel solution, competing with the likes of Facilis Terrablock and Editshare. Avid killed it to concentrate on its replacement, ISIS, a gigabit ethernet approach. Fibre Channel is dead.  Here comes 10gig ethernet.

What do we need to keep this method evolving?  An affordable 10gig over copper switch, low cost 10 gig add in cards for our MacPros and a constant supply of MacPros.  Looks like the first two are almost here.  The last is another column for another time.