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Will 25G Effort Prove Valuable?

Dan O'Shea
7/7/2014
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The interesting stuff always happens when you're on vacation. Last week's launch of the 25G Gigabit Ethernet Consortium seems like a great example of companies moving to establish a default standard where the standards process has failed so far to address a growing need. The group moved into a void created when IEEE participants voted, very narrowly, not to pursue such a standard. (See New 25-Gig Ethernet Spec Targets Data Center and 25-GigE Consortium Devises Data Center Standard.)

However, even the backing of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) does not necessarily guarantee industrywide success. As I caught up on this news a few days after the fact, the first thing I noticed, which probably already had been noticed by many of you, were the names that were missing: Facebook and Amazon Web Services LLC , in particular, but also big carriers that operate many data centers, like Verizon Terremark . Also, though Arista Networks Inc. is a major player in this group, other data center equipment vendors -- such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), and Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) -- were not listed in the announcement.

There may be a variety of reasons these companies weren't involved in the group's launch, and perhaps they'll still join the effort. Nevertheless, when certain big names aren't present in groups like this, it's usually a matter of time before we see separate groups pursuing their own path to the same goal. That's been happening with the multiple efforts to establish intra-data center 100G specs. (See 100G Inside? Data Centers Will Get It.)

It's been suggested that the new 25G group may feed its work back into an IEEE standardization effort if the agency starts one. The group's very existence might even motivate the IEEE to revisit the topic, and ultimately, that would be the best course for the industry. What will also be good is if companies like Facebook, Verizon, and Cisco don't go off and establish their own groups to work the same territory.

Another notable thing about the 25G effort is that it's a case of content operators playing a major role in helping establish a new default networking standard. Given the degree to which companies like Google and Facebook have become engaged in major networking projects, this should come as no surprise, and we are likely to see much more of it. These groups are always going to appear more valuable with the widest possible representation from across the industry, but it's becoming clear that content operators won't hesitate to help light a fire under the traditional networking sector when they feel the need.

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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