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40 and 100G Ethernet networking standards finished

IEEE ratifies two new wired network standards for faster data centres

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The 40G/100G Ethernet standard has been ratified, the first specification to simultaneously specify two new Ethernet speeds. The IEEE 802.3ba standard was ratified last Thursday, according to the IEEE. Ratification paves the way for a new wave of higher speed Ethernet server connectivity and core switching products, the standards organization says.

Some vendors, such as Cisco and Juniper Networks have already been trialing 100G Ethernet products since late last year. By producing pre-standard products, these vendors are "taking a risk," says John D'Ambrosia, chair of the IEEE 802.3ba Task Force. "We made changes up until March [2010]," D'Ambrosia said. "[Compliance] is up to those [vendors] and where their products were up to that point."

Juniper says it participated in the definition of the standard and that the 100G product it trialled in October and November 2009 needs no modification to be fully compliant with last week's ratified standard. "It is based on the standard as it was at that stage," says Luc Ceuppens, vice president of product marketing for Juniper's Infrastructure Products Group. "Changes made this year did not materially impact the product. I don't think we need to [modify] it."

Ceuppens says Juniper is currently taking order for the product, a 100G Ethernet interface for its T1600 core router. Cisco did not comment by press time. Pricing is also an issue with 40/100G Ethernet. Participants at the recent Ethernet Technology Summit said current price points were too high to spur mainstream adoption.

D'Ambrosia says long reach optics for 100G Ethernet are expensive but short reach is "very reasonable," and that some 40/100G Ethernet price points are cheaper than initial 10G Ethernet optics. Indeed, Extreme Networks is pricing its 40G Ethernet switching modules at $1,000 per port, slightly higher than the average selling price of a 10G Ethernet port."This is first generation [technology]," D'Ambrosia says. "It will come down."

The 802.3ba standard addresses bandwidth needs required by the growing number of applications in data centres, service provider networks and other traffic-intensive high performance computing environments. Then proliferation of virtualisation and virtual machines within data centres, as well as converged network services, video-on-demand, and social networking, were driving forces behind the definition of the standard.

The standard is also expected to accelerate the adoption of 10G Ethernet now that higher-speed 40G/100G pipes are available to aggregate scores of 10G links. The IEEE also says it complements the Federal Communication Commission's "Connecting America" National Broadband Plan, which calls for delivering greater broadband access nationwide, 100Mbps for a minimum of 100 million homes.

"It is an enabler" of those technologies and initiatives, D'Ambrosia says. "It's not the only thing that will make it take off, but it is an enabler."

The IEEE collaborated with the International Telecommunication Union's Telecommunication Standardisation Sector (ITU-T) Study Group 15 to ensure that the new Ethernet rates are transportable over optical transport networks, the IEEE said.

IEEE 802.3ba remains compatible with existing IEEE 802.3 installations, which helps preserve existing Ethernet investments, the IEEE says. The new standard is also expected to lower operating expenses and improve energy efficiencies by alleviating the need to aggregate multiple 10G links to achieve 40G and 100G rates, the standards organisation says.

The new standard has the same Ethernet frame format as IEEE 802.3, D'Ambrosia says. Clocking schemes are also "within the bounds of the limits of believable and doable," he says. The standard is immediately available for purchase in draft format, the IEEE says.



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