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The economics of 400G Ethernet

By Val Oliva, Blog Contributor

400G, anyone? Too much speed. Too expensive. Something I do NOT need.

Those are a few comments I hear when I ask customers about their 400G needs.

Let's face it, 400G (as Ethernet) is a lot. But there are compelling economics around 400G.

Table 1 shows the benefits of using 400G switches compared to 25G switches.

Let's look more closely at each row of the table:

(A) Comparing the list prices, a 25G switch (48p 25G with 8p 100G) is $47K, while a 400G switch (32p 400G) is $120K.

(B) However, a 25G switch only supports up to forty eight (48) 25G servers, while a whooping one hundred twenty eight (128) 25G servers with a 400G switch. That’s roughly 3 times more 25G servers!

(C) For top-of-rack performance, the server to uplink performance is 1:2. Meaning, there is no oversubscription because of 2x more bandwidth for servers when using a 400G switch.

(D) For enterprises building on-prem data centers, a 400G switch allows for more VMs than a 25G switch. For example, if you have 100 VMs per server, a 25G switch allows only 4,800 VMs, while a 400G switch allow up to 12,800 VMs. That’s roughly 3 times more VMs per switch!

(E) For cloud and IT service providers, more VMs mean more revenue. Assuming an average selling price (ASP) of $1,033 per VM, the revenue is only $5M for a 25G switch (think “less servers, less, VMs, less revenue”). While $13M when using a 400G switch. That’s a potential of 167% more revenue per switch!

The table does not show the cost to build the spine infrastructure, which will be less when using a 400G switch when compared to a 25G switch. Why? A spine fabric for a ToR using a 25G switch costs more (think “3,000 servers/48”) to support 3,000 servers compared to a spine infrastructure for a 400G switch (think “3,000 servers/128”).

Lastly, building a network infrastructure requires considering network growth. A 25G switch stops at 25G. While a 400G switch supports 25G (8 way breakouts using 400G), 100G (4 way breakout using 400G), 200G (2 way breakout using 400G), and obviously, 400G. That’s 4 Ethernet speeds for a 400G!

Clearly, 400G brings more savings for enterprises and more profit for service providers. The raw power of 400G is not just speed (although 400G is 16x faster than 25G). 400G also brings higher network performance and a much lower latency.

More importantly, the economics of 400G is also about maximizing resources to support growth, greater savings, and higher revenue.

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