10GbE network switch
The Netgear XS708E is the first of a new breed – a 10GbE network switch that costs the right side of £1000. Until recently the big network hardware brands had managed to keep enterprise-level equipment at enterprise prices. But Netgear is the first company to introduce a cheapish 10Gb ethernet switch, aiming it at smaller businesses with tighter budgets. See: more networking reviews.
It still costs north of £700 though, which is a mighty big swing tag for a network switch with just eight ports to its name. But as business networks are becoming increasingly burdened with more traffic, it behoves the company sysadmin to release some pressure with an order of magnitude more bandwidth than the current standard-issue gigabit network. Take a look at Group test: what's the best wireless router?
Rolling out the 10x speed upgrade is nowhere near as easy as the migration from 10/100 to gigabit. That’s not least because no client devices can latch onto the extra speed. We’re talking laptops, tablets and the very vast majority of desktop PCs.
Currently, if you want to move data from PC to PC over a network at greater than 20th-century hard disk speeds – that is, faster than around 115 MB/s – you’ll have to find a 10GbE PCI Express card. These cost upwards of £500 each for just a single-port NIC. And the form factor means they’re only suitable for large desktop PCs.
Netgear’s 10GbE offer
The embryonic nature of 10GbE hasn’t stopped Netgear from seizing the opportunity to trickle some ten-gig kit into its business hardware lines. As part of the ProSafe series, the XS708E sits between real industrial switchgear and consumer network tech like the company’s popular wireless routers. Functionaly the XS708E is between a fully managed and an unmanaged switch.
The latter is essentially plug-and-play but with limitations in its scope; the latter is the most versatile but requires a lot more networking savvy to fly, often involving CLI twealing – and its added complexity and usefulness means it will command a higher price.
Netgear’s ProSafe Plus switch product lives in between the category of unmanaged and smart switch. Its configuration options include VLAN, simple QoS, IGMP snooping and port trunking (LAG). This link aggregation is useful to combine two gigabit network ports on a business NAS drive, for example, to give around 2 gigabit throughput.
Netgear’s ProSafe Plus setup software is Windows only and also requires WinPcap (link layer network access) and Adobe AIR to be installed, both supplied on the same software CD-ROM.
Performance is not so easy to evaluate without advanced network measurement equipment. In our limited time using it, we encountered no performance issues, although whether it can approach the advertised 10GbE performance, and how well it sustains that performance when all ports are full loaded, remains unknown.
Construction of the Netgear XS708E is suitably solid, a relatively plain 1U box with just IEC power inlet and Kensington lock slot at the rear, and eight RJ45 ports at the front.
The eighth (right-most) port can also be exchanged with an adjacent fibre-optic connector, for 10 gigabit SFP+ fibre.
One green LED far left shows power on, and another LED labelled Fan should light in the event the fan fails. In use this cooling fan is annoyingly whinny, although this disregard for comfort is typical for network kit that’s unlikely to be used on the desktop.
Power consumption is quite modest by high-power switch standards – in our measurements it never exceed 34W power draw.