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Like many sophisticated networking technologies, it has taken a while for 10-Gigabit Ethernet to become the market force analysts predicted when it debuted in 2002.

It took more than three years for the U.S. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers to certify a standard after 10GbE was proposed, and there still isn’t a standard for 10GbE to run on copper wire instead of fiber-optic.

Complexity is part of the reason; another is the ecosystem. Three years ago 10GbE products were designed as a way to keep fat streams of data from bottlenecking before they hit multiprocessor servers running large-scale applications.

Now many of the products are aimed at creating high-performance SANs (storage area networks) using relatively common versions of Ethernet.

And that, some 10GbE vendors believe, will create a market that will help the technology take off—and help the channel to profit from it.

Tracy Crowe, director of market development and alliances at Neterion Inc., said he believes all the layers of the 10-Gigabit Ethernet ecosystem have fallen into place. That is, all except for the reseller strata, which the company now aims to cultivate.

Neterion on Monday launched a reseller program for its line of 10GbE Xframe adapters. The company, which changed its name from S2io in January, reaches its data-center customers entirely through indirect channels. Until recently, that meant OEMs. But Crowe said he thinks the 10GbE market’s evolution now makes it ripe for resellers.

A recent trip to Gartner Inc.’s IT ChannelVision conference reinforced his belief.

“I met with a lot of VARs, systems builders and service providers,” Crowe said. “A lot of them are facing the frustration of clients who want more bandwidth and have outgrown the 1G space,” he noted.

As content grows, many enterprise customers “don’t want to go to Fibre Channel and bear the expense of building a Fibre Channel SAN,” Crowe said. The 10GbE technology, he said, on the other hand, “can get around the cost of deploying Fibre Channel.”

Crowe also said he views 10GbE as a fit in situations where several midrange servers have been consolidated into a higher-end box. Customers contend with slot limitations in such cases, but can deploy one 10GbE adapter to effectively get the equivalent of seven or eight 1GbE adapters, he said.

Neterion began shipping its initial product, the Xframe 10GbE PCI-X 1.0 server and storage adapter, in October 2003. Since then, the company has struck OEM deals with such vendors as Cray Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Silicon Graphics Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. On the switch side, Neterion has alliances with companies such as Foundry Networks Inc.

In addition to Xframe, Neterion has announced Xframe II, a 10GbE adapter based on PCI-X 2.0, and Xframe E, an adapter based on PCI Express.

Overall, Crowe said he believes the 10GbE market has been well seeded, with switch, server, storage and software vendors all offering products in that field.

Presenting a case for market momentum, he cited International Data Corp.’s report that 10GbE LAN-switch ports revenue grew 87 percent between the third and fourth quarters of 2004. Crowe also mentioned Gartner’s prediction that 10GbE fiber adapters will surpass 1GbE shipments by the first quarter of 2007.

To gear up for its channel push, Neterion has inked distribution agreements with Info X Technology Solutions (Americas region), ACAL Storage Networking (for EMEA) and Hitachi High Technologies Corp. (for Asia/Pacific).

Neterion will provide resellers with a password-protected Web site, technical support, technical and sales training, and a lead generation program, among other features.

10GbE gear won’t fit every customer situation. But the technology could prove a valuable tool for resellers assisting customers with enterprise server consolidation or bandwidth problems associated with high-performance applications.

“We allow them to move up the food chain,” Crowe said. “They’re not selling an adapter that a customer can run down to Fry’s and buy for a couple of hundred bucks.”