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25GbE Comes to Life at 1st 2550100 SolutionFest

| May 1, 2016 | Reply


Eventually 25Gb Ethernet is going to displace 10GbE as the preferred server interconnect inside millions of data center racks. Epic migrations like this are sparked by a huge ecosystem of vendors exchanging products, defining reference architectures, and qualifying solutions needed by channel partners and customers to quickly assimilate new technology. For 25GbE, that process started on April 27th at the first 2550100 SolutionFest in Aliso Viejo, California.

In the last year leading up to the SolutionsFest, there was a lot written about the standards and specifications for the new generation of 25, 50 and 100GbE technology based on 25GbE lanes. A handful of switches were introduced in the last year, but a complete 25GbE network was nowhere to be found. The reason was because no major OEM was offering the type of adapters needed to connect servers to the new switches. That changed a few weeks ago when Dell introduced 25GbE NICs from QLogic.

At the SolutionFest, a group of vendors led by Dell, met at the QLogic 2550100 Solutions Lab to bring the technology to life by building an application environment centered on new 25GbE networking products.

SolutionFest Highlights

1. You Must Fan-Out

I learned at the SolutionFest that you might want 25GbE switch ports, but with the new generation of  switches you will start with 100GbE ports and use fan-out cables to configure ports delivering lesser speeds. For example, the Cisco and Supermicro switches we used offered 100GbE ports which were configured for 100, 40, 25 and 10GbE.

2. The Migration Discussion Starts at 1GbE, and Cabling Matters

Approximately 2/3 of enterprise data center Ethernet ports are 1GbE ports. That means a migration to 25GbE will often start with the question, “where do I go from 1GbE?” To that end, the SolutionFest team assembled cables and optics for 1GbE, 10GbE, 40GbE, and 100GbE to help the vendors, channel partners and customers at the event, understand how important the backwards compatibility and cost of these components are to a 25GbE network deployment.

To illustrate the importance of cabling, the 2550100 SolutionFest team showed the difference between cabling for 40GbE NICs versus the cabling for 25GbE NICs. An upgrade from 10GbE NIC to 25GbE NIC was  performed by plugging and replacing the card and using the same cables. The upgrade to 40Gb required all new cabling which was bulkier and more expensive.

3. A New Rack Architecture

Another interesting demonstration was cabling from server to top-of-rack switch, and from top-of-rack switch to aggregation or core switches. The architecture typically used in highly virtualized environments today is 10GbE from server to rack, and 40GbE to core. The demo showed a new rack architecture with 25GbE from server to top-of-rack, and 100GbE to core.

4. Channel Partner Point of View

Jeff Rapini, CTO of nodeFinity, sat down during the SolutionFest to share his point of view on what he saw. What I heard is he appreciates the big 2.5x increase in performance for a small 1.5x in cost. But he also raised a the question, “where’s the storage?”

Kaminario was on hand with a 10Gb iSCSI all flash array to demonstrate the compatibility of 25GbE networks with 10GbE infrastructure, but Jeff would like to see end-to-end 25GbE solutions, so his customers can get full value from their investments in 25GbE networks.

5. IT Point of View

We also sat down with the CTO, and a post-production engineer, from Chapman University Film School. With 1,500 students creating 4K video, and virtual reality on it’s way, they see a strong need for Ethernet-based object storage to meet their capacity requirements–and for 2550100GbE networks to help move all that data around.

6. 40 Reference Architectures

The SolutionFest environment was built  around servers from Dell connected with 25GbE NICs from QLogic, but also included cables and optics from Finisar, backup software from Veeam, switches from Cisco and Supermicro, Cumulus Linux running on the Supermicro switch, all flash storage from Kaminario, a 25G traffic generator from Ixia, and a logic analyzer for troubleshooting from Teledyne Lecroy.

With all these products, we were able to define 40 different reference architectures which will be published soon here on

Join the Fun

This was the first of many 2550100 SolutionFest events to come in the months ahead. They are conducted in a casual open-house format which encourages vendors, channel partners and IT pros to stop in for a few minutes while the environment is being built and testing is being done. Check the event calendar here at for dates and locations of future SolutionFests.

If you’re a vendor and want to participate in a SolutionFest, or host an event, contact

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