Given the amount of data generated by a typical bioinformatics laboratory, adequate network bandwidthcommonly expressed as speed or throughput in thousands or millions of bits per second (bps)is essential to efficient computation and communications. As shown in Figure 3-7, the applications operating on data retrieved from a storage area network disk array are typically supported by a tiered network system comprising a Gigabit Ethernet. This protocol provides 1 Gbps communications throughput between the storage area network disk array and the servers. A Fast Ethernet protocol provides 100 Mbps interprocess communications between the server-based applications. Finally, a standard Ethernet provides 10 Mbps throughput between workstations, which make relatively light throughput demands.
Figure 3-7 Network Bandwidth. Gigabit Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, and Ethernet provide a tiered network system that provides a compromise between system data throughput, cost, and maintenance.
Although it's tempting to simply put every device on Gigabit Ethernet, there is a cost and maintenance issue with a Gigabit or other high-speed network compared to Fast or regular Ethernet. For example, Gigabit Ethernet has a limited range compared to regular Ethernet. In addition, whereas standard Ethernet works well over twisted pair and coaxial cable, most Gigabit Ethernet installations are based on fiber cable and expensive fiber-based electronics.
What constitutes "standard" and "high-speed" is a moving target, in that applications in the general networking industry are pushing standard and Fast Ethernet toward retirement. For example, Fast Ethernet isn't especially fast compared to the latest Gigabit Ethernet standard, 10 GigE, which provides a throughput of about 10 Gbps. As network electronics compatible with 10 GigE proliferate and Gigabit Ethernet electronics for workstations become more affordable, the throughput on virtually every scientific network, like the minimum workstation clock speed, will be in the giga-range.