Gigabyte switches for client connections

Posted on 2009-05-19
Last Modified: 2012-05-07
I had someone tell me that I was wrong to buy a gigabyte switch for a client for their network.  The server on their network had a gigabyte NIC cards so it make sense to use a gigabyte switch to maximize traffic flow between server and client.  If this assumption is wrong I would like to know.

Question by:adsnetcurve

Accepted Solution

astralcomputing earned 125 total points
ID: 24428111
They were wrong.

While in general you will not use the full length of the bandwidth, all your clients will now benefit from the increased speed.

When your network hits high usage, there will be better performance.

Also, you are in good position for expansion as technology grows.

LVL 94

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by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 125 total points
ID: 24428162
Agreed 100% ... T
LVL 18

Assisted Solution

by:Mal Osborne
Mal Osborne earned 125 total points
ID: 24428303
Gigabit will work faster than 100Mb, although the differance may not be readily noticeable.  100Mb is generally enough for client machines, unless they regularly copy huge files. Your cabling also needs to be in good condition for Gb to work, cabling that is a "bit out of spec" may be just fine at 100Mb, but encounter all sorts of errors at Gb speed.  To be certain, ensure the cabling is certified to CAT5e, CAT5 is supposed to work at 100Mb only.

For these reasons it's common to use 100Mb on client machines, it's a cost/benefit thing. Running Gb to the clients is not "wrong", nor is running 100Mb, it just depends on the outcomes you are trying to achieve.

For an office with existing CAT5 cabling, and office workers running primarily Outlook, Word, Excel & web browsers, I would run 100Mb to the clients, and Gb to the swtch & between servers.

For a group of graphic designers, working on high resolution images, with new CAT5e or CAT6 cabling, I would go Gb.
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ccomley earned 125 total points
ID: 24429632
It's a "thing". It's early days for gigabit to the desktop, some folks see it as a natural progression, some see it as un-necessary. Bottom line is, it will come - most modern PCs have gigabit network ports as standard and gigabit switches are getting cheaper.

But there's no rush.


100Mbits is *ample* for most users. It'll load a spreadsheet or word document, etc., quite quickly enough from the local server that you won't be left twiddilng your thumbs waiting for something to do. Unless you copy huge files back and forth from a w/s to the server the whole time, it's not *necessary* to have gigabit to the workstation because 100mbit is fast enough to keep the users's well happy.

If you DO have an exceptional situation (e.g. i have a w/s which is used as a secondary backup of the server documents share, so Second Copy is copying ALL the files off the server across to that w/s every two hours - but even then, once the initial copy is made it only copies files that have changed) then you can put THAT station on gigabit.

But I bet most users won't tell the difference.

WHY then do you have gigabit in the server?

Well, think what's happening 90% of the time, you  have 20 users, say,or 50, all talking to the server all the time. But rarely to each other. ALMOST ALL the significant internal traffic on your network is between a workstation and the server. And if you run ISA or any proxy, your server also carries all yuor internet traffic, so 99% of traffic is now from a workstation to the server.

So the server is handling 20 or 50 times as much traffic as any one workstation.

If you limit the server to 100mbits, then ONE workstation can max it out.

If you give the server a gigabit path into the switch, then ten workstations can talk to it at once without any of them being made to wait.

The same logic applies in larger networks, so you may have two or three "downstream" switches feeding the desktops, then each switch connects to a "core" switch. The core switch is gigabit, the downstream switches are 10.100 to the desktop but have gigabit uplink ports to connect to the "core". That way each of the workstations on the downstream switch can talk at 100mbits to the core switch, again, without having to "share".

So bottom line - it's not "wrong" to put gigiabit to the desktop, but it's overkill. THen again, as switches get cheaper, it'll be as easy to do it as not.

One potential downside - if you get a trojan/virus infection on one of the workstations that can swamp the network connection with spam, and that w/s has a gigabit feed, it can slug the whole network.

NOTE in passing - you don't get a gigabit through a gigiabit connection, sadly. The best speed I've seen on a 100mbit fd connection is circa 75mbits, but the best speed on a gigabit connection is 250-300mbits. Still way faster than the 10/100 link. But other parts of the hardware need to catch up.  Disk access speeds in the target machine will be one problem - if you send data faster than the server can write it to disk, things just slow down. Using faster disk subsystems in servers helps, therefore. Frame size is also an issue - you'll get much better throughput on large files using jumbo frames (presuming your switch and your PCs can handle it) butit's less efficient for small talk, and causes slow starts if any of your kit can't do jumbo.


Author Closing Comment

ID: 31583330
Thanks for the input.

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