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Sneaking up on you: Affordable Gigabit

Gatermann sent me a link to something today, something whose existence shocked me.

Affordable gigabit Ethernet, from a mainstream, second-tier manufacturer.That manufacturer is D-Link. Their 8-port gigabit switch costs $130 at It wasn’t even five years ago that I paid that much for a Netgear 8-port 10/100 autosensing hub. And it’s a real, honest-to-goodness gigabit switch, not one of those 8-port switches with 7 10/100 ports and just one 10/100/1000 port.

Meanwhile, Netgear is weighing in with gigabit NICs at $31 a pop.

Gigabit’s a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have. Yes, it’s nice for your network drives to be about the same speed as your local drives. No, it’s not necessary sharing an Internet connection and it won’t make the network printers any faster. But if you shuttle large files around your network…

If you get the feeling I really wish I didn’t know this information, you’re right. So I’m sharing my pain.

I can see this becoming very common in households, however. Gigabit means no one has to fight over who gets the monster hard drive. Buy that $250 300-gig drive, then put it somewhere, share it out, and map it on all the computers in the household. Then everyone gets the upgrade.

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8 thoughts on “Sneaking up on you: Affordable Gigabit”

  1. It surprises me little, David, that you would find the "pulchritude" of commonly available Gigabit ethernet to be inscrutable. Your brother and I, of course, were running our estates’ networks at this speed when Intel first released engineering samples of its Gigabit switch many years ago (indeed, the NDA has expired so I can speak freely about this). These days, of course, true aristocrats have SONET and ATM to fill their data needs. As I suspected, though, economies of scale have brought Gigabit to the masses.

    I am also a bit surprised that the raffish, gauche flibbertigibbet Thomas found this link for you. I obviously prefer to use my private contacts inside Intel and Cisco to acquire equipment. However, I appreciate the struggle it must have been for Thomas to use a computer, especially through the miasma of his Dirt-Cheap beer induced stupor. It is almost inspirational.

    In parting, I must complement your new web site design. It is simple, much like a Scotsman, and has a crisp appearance, much like a Frenchman. I’m sure you’ll be pleased that R. Collins and I will be visiting regularly.

    — Jacques Pierre Cousteau Vermouth Bouillabaisse le Raunche de la Stenche

  2. R. Collins Farquhar IV, aristocrat and scientist.

    To my evil twin and whomever else might be listening.


    Yes, David, the rabble is now able to buy gigabit equipment for amounts comparable to what my manservants find under my cushions. Of course, D-Link and Netgear are completely unsuitable. Utilizing second-tier hardware, such as a D-Link or Netgear switch, can cause unexpected crashes. I know this because I implemented my first gigabit network before you were born. Of course, as your time is worth nothing, this may not be of concern to you.

    I know this insight has proven invaluable.

    I remain,

    R. Collins Farquhar IV

  3. Pretty amazing stuff. With the falling prices of hard drives and networking, makes me wonder how much added value we’re getting where I work using expensive proprietary SAN products. For those not familiar with data centers, SAN="Storeage Area Network", popular as a separate network for backups, keeping heavy backup traffic off the regular LAN, running on very fast fibre channel wiring. We also use networked storeage for high-volume databases. I wonder how the expensive name solutions compare with what someone more knowledgeable than I could put together with relatively cheap components.

    On the home front, I also noted recently that the latest wireless g products seem to be promising over 100 Mbits. The rate of change in wireless is pretty startling also.


    1. Just wait for ultra wideband to hit, Steve. The range is only 10 meters (because it’s very low power), but 100 to 500 Mbps t’aint bad at all. And if you stick UWB technology on a wire – whew! Pulse-Link has a system in development (for cable companies) that chugs along at 1.2 Gbps downstream, 120 Mbps upstream. I think I could live with that. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Steve, I think there’s more of a future in iSCSI than in proprietary SANs, for precisely that reason. (iSCSI is the encapsulation of SCSI into TCP/IP).

      For the uninitiated, the idea behind a SAN or iSCSI is to put a big box of disks somewhere on your network, and to be able to present just the amount of storage you need to any given server on the network. So if I’ve got a development server that really only needs 2 gigs of disk space, I’m not wasting a pair of expensive 36-gig SCSI drives on it. And instead of having a room full of servers, each with one hot spare disk in its RAID array, I’ve got two or three hot spares in that box of disks that covers everything. If you only have a handful of servers it doesn’t gain you anything, but if you’ve got more than a couple dozen, it can save you a bundle. And you gain performance by spreading your data out over dozens and dozens of drives.

      There’s a whole lot more overhead in iSCSI, but it’s cheap, and since it’s translation by definition, often what you see on the other end is just a huge box of cheap IDE disks. If one goes bad, so what, that’s what hot spares are for. Cheap always always wins out over good, and iSCSI is the spawn of everything cheap in PC-land. The cheapest SAN I’ve seen costs about $50,000 and doesn’t gain you all that much. I’ve seen iSCSI rigs that cost $20,000 and actually give you some versatility. If the speed’s inadequate, just throw more cheap IDE disks at the problem. If you saturate gigabit’s bandwidth, well, 10-gigabit will be coming soon.

      SANs will continue to have their place, in datacenters where speed is paramount, but medium-sized businesses will be more inclined to go the iSCSI route–or something cheaper yet, if someone manages to come up with it.

      1. Doggone it, you guys…. Now, I’m gonna have to upgrade all my NICs and switches over the next two or three months.

        Since you’re talking about moving big files, have any of you looked at the Hauppauge MediaMVP, lately? For under $100, it’s got an IBM STBx25xx PowerPC processor with integrated MPEG and ethernet. Oh, and it runs MontaVista STB Linux (Redwood 6). Utterly ridiculous, but oh so nice, small, and quiet. Check out this user forum:
        Hauppauge Media MVP

      2. Interesting that you should bring up iSCSI, Dave.

        I just learned the other day that I may be tasked shortly with installing iSCSI cards and drivers on several of our servers, though connected to a pretty expensive proprietary filer rather than cheap hardware.

        I don’t know a lot about it yet, but it does seem like a very promising technology.


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