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So after my mild disappointment with Apple releasing an uninspired speed bump to the recent MacPro line (no case redesign (it could lose 20lbs), eSATA, 10GigE, FW1600, or even USB3.0), I started doing some research on 10GigE just to see the state of affairs.

Things I learned:

1. What I want is 10GBase-T the standard RJ45 cabling we all love.
2. Cat6 isn’t going to cut it, Cat6a or Cat7 are going to be the only ‘real’ options. I say it like that because under good conditions (short distances, low interference, not in big bundles of cables) Cat6 will work. But, for safety sake, I wouldn’t count on it.
3. Various fiber and copper cables are being used in the interim. CX4 and SFP+ are the common cables in use and are designed for shorter connections. But, they aren’t that interesting unless you’re building a small dedicated cluster and really what I want is something that interoperates in the rest of the GigE world.
4. There are 3 (that I could locate) actual 10GBASE-T switches, most are just gigabit switches with a couple 10GBASE-T uplinks OR are massive datacenter switches. The 3 I did find are too expensive ($11000-19000) for home use, but aren’t out of range for the right small business application.

Arista 7120T-4S
This 24 port swtich is really the best choice if you need ultra low latency (think network computing) and/or raw bandwidth (think editing RAW HD Video). It features 20 auto-negotiating 1/10GBASE-T ports and 4 SFP+ uplinks. Network World tests put the latency at a very stable 800ns! That’s 0.0008ms a.k.a. very, very fast. I would love a low cost 8 port version of something like this. A quick google product search shows you can pick one of these up for ~$13,500.

Dell PowerConnect 8024
Another possibility is the Dell 8024. It has the most configurable port setup (24x SFP+ (10Gb/1Gb) w/4 Combo Ports of 10GBASE-T (10Gb/1Gb/100Mb) or SFP+) and is the lowest cost of the bunch at ~$11,500 (google product search). If you need all 24 ports, or if that extra $2k is going to put you over budget or if you merely need the extra bandwidth 10GigE brings, this is probably your best choice.

Extreme Networks Summit X650-24t
While I’m a big fan of Extreme as the underdog of high performance network switching, unfortunately, as far as I can tell from the datasheet, the ports are 10GBase-T ONLY and aren’t backwards compatible with GigE or slower. This is a bit disappointing as they were a great company to work with back in the Static days when we used their products. On a positive note they performed the best on IGMP multicasting, so if IP multicasting is your thing, this is your switch! $18,709.86 on Amazon :)

Network world did a nice review (although its terrible to navigate) of the bunch and put the Arista on top. Here is the comparison chart for a general overview.

Further reading:
High Performance Made Simple: The 10 Gigabit Ethernet Cluster

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