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10 Gbps Ethernet

A recent ATTO 10 Gigabit ethernet adapter email piqued me interest: 10 Gbps ethernet is Thunderbolt speed. What happens in a world where computers could be connected at Thunderbolt speed via ethernet? How about a home computer setup with a main storage computer coupled to others with minimal storage? The landscape might change considerably once 10 Gbps ethernet is built into Macs and other devices.

Which makes me wonder: it seems highly appropriate for a new Mac Pro to sport 10 Gbps ethernet built-in, in addition to Thunderbolt and USB3. The odds of this happening are low, but the possibility might not be ruled out so easily, as Apple has a habit of adopting Cool Stuff (well, at least that was true with the Mac pro 6 years ago!).

Don H writes:

I have been following the progression (or lack thereof) of 10Gbase-T for a number of years, going to vendor presentations on their latest gear, etc. Sadly, it has not advanced as quickly as the previous jumps in speed, and part of that is the technological wall of trying to make it backward compatible with earlier Ethernet standards.

If you're interested in two in-depth but readable articles on where things stand, I offer the following:

A history of the Ethernet standards and the hoops jumped through to increase each order of magnitude:

https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2011/07/ethernet-how-does-it-work/

Here is a great pictorial of Intel's Ethernet lab, which shows how challenging it is to develop and test suitable 10G hardware:

https://www.tomshardware.com/picturestory/562-intel-x-lab-10gbe.html

Both articles are from 2011, but sadly not much has changed since then. 10G Ethernet adapters have fallen in price but are hardly at 'consumer' desktop levels, and worse still the switches remain at data-center prices. (Conceivably if one only needed to connect two or three machines you could skip the switches and use Ethernet's automatic crossover capabilities to wire directly from one port to another.)

I too hope the next Mac Pro includes 10G Ethernet (perhaps as an option at least) but the current state of deployment elsewhere doesn't give me confidence. I also occasionally follow PC motherboard reviews at Anandtech and so far have not seen a single high-end board include 10G hardware. They're usually the vanguard for this sort of thing because PC makers will try *anything* in the interest of differentiation.


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