GigE & Me – My First GigE Switch

I’ve been designing the network for my new house. There was only one way to go. It had to be GigE (1000BASE-TX). All my Macs have GigE ports and more importantly I have a history with GigE. I worked on the standard, spent 2 years of my life at a GigE start-up Packet Engines ( which was acquired by Alcatel ), and developed GigE products at PMC. I had to have it.

I was so excited that couldn’t wait for the new house. I got a Dell PowerConnect 2716 for almost “nothing”, $199CDN + taxes, during Dell’s January sale. (It’s $209CDN today ) I installed it 2 days ago and did some playing with it yesterday.

Here is a note I sent my IT friend, Keith, who procured the box for me.

so cool … copying files between iMac and my Power Mac.
Avg rate @ 39MB/sec ( 312 Mbps ) for an 8 Gig transfer … peaks of 72 MB/sec ( 576 Mbps) were observed!
seems most of the time it averages ~ 240 Mbps. wow. My measurement tool is pretty crude …

This totally rips šŸ™‚
It’s so cool to see LED blinking in 1000 Mode.
I’m such a geek.

Performance & History … 240Mbps may seem low, but it is great for me. Maybe I’ve been “hardened”. It reminds me one of the saddest days of my working life when I was product mgr for PE’s NIC. When we first tested our Gigabit NIC in the lab back in ’96, with the highest end PC we could find, every tweak of TCP/IP settings, and anything else we could think of we still only got a whopping ~110Mbps. Aaargh … the only box that could pump out ~300 Mbps was a super high-end Sun. Dec Alpha based machines could pump out ~180Mbps. We were too early … and it was clear that TOE and other functions were gonna be needed to make GigE work in a PC.

On pricing evolution – this box is roughly 99% less expensive than the original GigE boxes that I worked on ā— It is just amazing how little this thing cost. It is very tough to compare with the original GigE boxes Back in the ’90’s. Extreme Networks was the first to market with a fully-managed 8-Port optical GigE switch with L2/L3 functionality. The marketing spin those days was that $3,500/per port was the objective. This translates into $56,000 for 16-Ports. Granted Copper ports make it cheaper, the optical transceiver was $120 back then or ~ 40% of port cost and the box I purchased doesn’t have much mgmt and no L3. Taking this into account a 16-Port low-end GigE box would have been ~ $20k. (Crank the math — 200/20,000 is 0.01.) That is 1% Hope I did the math right. Wow! Wow! Moore’s Law is amazing. It even makes some sort of sense ~ 12 years, new process cost reduction –> a factor of 2 every 2 years. This translates into a 64x (2^6) cost reduction. 20,000/64 = $312 which is around the list price. This also provides a glimpse into why the chip industry is a twisted šŸ˜ˆ existence.

The “major” chip count is also interesting. Today ~ 3 Chips and in ’96 it was ~ 80 chips. The PowerConnect seems to be based Marvell products ( there is a sticker on the box) I’m guessing a single chip 16 port switch + 2 Octal Copper PHY chips ( Total ~ 3 Chips ). Back in ’96 PE’s 2-Port GigE blade had ~9 major chips ( 2 Optical Transceivers, 2 PMD chips, 1 2-Port MAC chip, 1 2-Port ARL chip, 1 2-Port TM chip, and ~2 back-plane serdes. ( this doesn’t include switch fabric or controller card). Total ~ 10 Chips per 2G or 80 chips for 16 Ports GigE.)

Someone’s got to check my math. Did I get it right? I can spew on this topic forever šŸ˜Ž … Cheers.

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