Gigabit vs Mbit --- Is there an advantage?

Posted on 2003-11-06
Last Modified: 2012-05-04

I'm in a fast ethernet network 100mbit, our new server came with a 1000mbit networking card built in. Now I need to add another NIC into it. Should I go with a cheap 100mbit NIC or should I fork out the money for a Gigabit NIC? Is there an advantage in a 100mbit network? What's the speed increase, if any?

Question by:Sebastian_Strauss
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Expert Comment

ID: 9697872

theres no advantage/disadvantage as far as how the technology is used or setup. they actually are nearly identical (thanks to institute of standards) except the 1000mbit is 10 times faster.

i would base the need for this solely on how much data flows through the server. if you dont know how much is going through the server, use the network stats viewer.

my guess is you dont need the 1000mbps cards UNLESS you have streaming media to clients, or more than 1000 clients, or the network statistics viewer shows ALOT of data flow in short periods of time.

now one thing you might also want to consider....
in the future, you might need that capability.
if so , then why not do it now and that way you never run into a problem with bandwidth shortage.

typically, i would upgrade anything i could when it reaches 75% use.

Expert Comment

ID: 9697943

Gigabit Ethernet is of course faster than Fast Ethernet. I have no exact number, but as far as I remember I read in an article it's about 8 times faster.

Now to your question:

Gigabit cards can already be bought very cheap, still they are much more expensive than Fast Ethernet Cards. In my opinion it depends what you're planning to do in your network. If you resp. your users move around very often very big files in the network it could be a good choice to invest in Gigabit Ethernet. Than it would even be an idea to spend GCards to the clients.

But if you have no such special needs, it's definitely enough to put in only a 10/100 Card. If one of the cards should connect to the internet, even 10Mbit would be enough.

Either Case, for your server you should consider not to buy the cheapest cards but rather some higher quality.

Hope I could help you a little,

Expert Comment

ID: 9700674
As mentioned by ViRoy & troja, the advantage in your case is dependant on whether the extra bandwidth is utilised. From a technical stand-point, the is definitely an increase in bandwidth by a theoritical value of 10x. However, for ethernet technologies, a utilisation of 70%, and above, of the bandwidth would be considered as saturated. So the actual thoroughput is only about 70% x 1000 Mbps = 700 Mbps (note that it's in bits per second). In a sense it's still 10x faster than fast ethernet as fast ether also has the same recommended utilisation rate of less than 70%.

The thing about Ethernet is that it's an industry standard that's backward compatible. 10 Gb is out in the market & is compatible with 1 Gb & 100 Mb, so there is no worries about compatibility or having the nightmare or changing your whole network infrastrucuture overnight.

Now, cost would probably be the main factor. Ultimately, if you do not require a Gb switch, then it'll probably make more sense to wait a while till the price drops & you feel that your network bandwidth could go up. But when it comes to upgrading your network, you'll still have to look at it on a macro view to see when bottlenecks would be if you upgrade a certain part & if you might even have to upgrade the bottlenecks with it.

This will come with performance measuring, using network monitoring tools like perfmon built into Windows 2k server or other 3rd party software, and also the needs of your users or company at it progresses a few months or years down the road.
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LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 9700958
>I'm in a fast ethernet network 100mbit
Look at the switches and the NICs in the workstations you have, if they only support 100Mbit there's no need to go for Gbit it won't speed up your network at all, everything will run at 100Mbit.

No big explanation here ;-)


Expert Comment

ID: 9701155
LucF is definitely right if you have absolutely no other device supporting GBit Ethernet. But already _one_ GBit port on your switch makes your server cope with 10 times more traffic than it did before. Otherways it just uses 100MBit Autosense.

Let's make a summary (in which everybody here was involved):

- A GBit Card is an investment in the future, but prices will go down, so there is no need to hurry if there is no actual need
- A GBit Card's throughput is about 10 times higher than Fast Ethernet
- GBit Ethernet is recommended in networks with high bandwith usage (use monitors as mapledrums said)
- Your switch needs to support GBit in order that your server can make use of these benefits

Have I forgot something..?

LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 9701195
> Have I forgot something..?
I think you've covered it all ;-)

Author Comment

ID: 9702699

Does that mean I would have to have Gbit NIC's in all workstations and purchase Gbit switches in order to see a speed increase?

LVL 32

Accepted Solution

LucF earned 125 total points
ID: 9702868
No, not necceserely. If you have a setup like this: (hope this picture doesn't misform)

Server ======== Switch ---------- workstation
                                |    |
                                |    |---------- workstation
                                |-------------- workstation

where ============ is 1Gbit
and ------------------ is 100Mbit

Your switch must have a Gbit port todo this.

Then you will get a performance boost also, as your network can serve 10 clients at 100Mbit at the same time then.
But if your switch has a max speed of 100Mbit on all ports, you won't get this performance boost.


LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 9703074
Just to explain the above comment a bit more:

It's just like in traffic, if you've got 10 one-lane roads wich come together on another one-road lane and there's a bit of heavy traffic, you will have a massive traffic jam. But...
... if you've got 10 one-lane roads wich come together on a 10-lane road even if it's havy traffic, you won't get the same traffic jam, because everyone can keep its lane.

Hope this explains this a little bit more.

So, to make it short, if you want 1Gbit performance toward your server, you'll need a switch with either all ports 1Gbit (the ports where the workstations are on will automatically slow down to 100Mbit) or you'll need a switch with 1 1Gbit port (wich you connect to the server) and the other ports just 100Mbit.

If your workstations are all 100Mbit/s and you're satisfied with that speed for them, I suggest you go for the last kind of switch I mentioned, if you have plans to upgrade the workstations to 1Gbit later, I suggest you go for the first kind of switch.


Expert Comment

ID: 9703744

yup yup
we use a $16,000 1gbps intelligent fibre switch for our backbone.
that backbone switch does nothing more than connect ALL of our floor switches to the servers (our floor switches are 24 port 100mbps stacks - we have grand total 8,000 client pc's)

we get awsome performance from that.

Author Comment

ID: 9704360
All of you, thank you very much for your help!!

LucF, especially for your excellent explaination!

LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 9704451
You're welcome, I'm glad to help.

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