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IEEE Picks Up 25Gbit/s Ethernet Cause

Dan O'Shea

Just days after a consortium was formed to pursue a 25Gbit/s specification for data centers, the IEEE has anointed its 802.3 25 Gbit/s Ethernet Study Group, the first step to establishing for formal standard.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) members voted last week to pursue the effort to explore uses and market interest in 25Gbit/s Ethernet for single-lane interconnections between servers and top-of-rack networking gear inside data centers. Mark Nowell, chairman of the study group and senior director at Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), tells Light Reading an initial straw poll of voting engineers found 121 in favor and just one against the idea. The move to establish the study group was unanimously approved in a follow-up vote. (See IEEE Studies 25G Ethernet Standard.)

Only two weeks earlier, several companies came together to announce the 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium, which aimed to pursue a default standard in the absence of a formal IEEE standard, while also building enough broad industry support to get the IEEE to pursue a formal standard. A previous effort to start a 25Gbit/s standard process at an IEEE meeting in March did not advance, Nowell believes in part because that meeting was held in China and was not as heavily attended as the meeting this month in San Diego. (See Will 25G Effort Prove Valuable?, 25-GigE Consortium Devises Data Center Standard, and New 25-Gig Ethernet Spec Targets Data Center.)

The consortium effort and the IEEE study effort appear to be in alignment. Nowell says all of the founding members of the consortium backed the call for interest to form the study group. The consortium also has previously suggested it could feed its own spec, already completed, back into the standards process. Cisco notably was absent from the consortium's founding members, but Nowell says the network giant is in the process of joining the consortium.

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The IEEE standards process also can draw on details of the existing 100Gbit/s Ethernet standard, which include specifications for four lanes of 25 Gbit/s.

"Because we can use stuff hammered out in the 100G process, I would expect this effort to move quickly," Nowell says, adding that in previous standard efforts where existing specs could be leveraged, concepts have moved from study group to task-force development to standard in about 18 months.

For now, the study group is focused on examining the need for server interconnection at 25 Gbit/s using copper backplane interfaces, but Nowell says additional applications could evolve. "Once we have a MAC standard, it could proliferate into other areas of the data center where 10G is not enough and 40G is too much."

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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7/23/2014 | 6:07:22 PM
Two times the fun
The 25G consortium  also was developing a spec for two lanes of 25 Gbit/s for server interconnection, though the IEEE study group for now is looking at a single-lane solution.
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