Ethernet Reaches for 100-Gig
The Ethernet camp is talking big numbers yet again, as efforts for 100-Gbit/s Ethernet and a 10-Gbit/s Ethernet PON are getting underway with standards groups.
The 100-Gbit/s effort reportedly is being organized by The Ethernet Alliance , a newly formed group that hopes to shepherd wannabe standards like this one. (See Ethernet Groups Form an Alliance.) Multiple sources say an organizing group met last week at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) meetings held in Boulder, Colo. -- a last-minute substitute for New Orleans, which had been slated to hold the March plenary session. The Ethernet Alliance did not return a call for comment.
The hope is to bring the matter to an IEEE call for interest in July. That's the first step down the long road to IEEE standardization, which can take two years or more. Should the plenary IEEE group green-light the idea, 100-Gbit/s Ethernet would become part of a new study group.
Ethernet jumps in factors of 10, so even though it would be cool to match the 40-Gbit/s Sonet/SDH speed grade, many Ethernet supporters are pushing for a leap to 100 Gbit/s. Some companies are talking up 100-Gbit/s Ethernet in their plans already: Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), Force10 Networks Inc. , and Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) say they've got backplanes designed to eventually support 100-Gbit/s Ethernet, although most of the gear in question couldn't support it right now. (See Ready for 100-Gig Ethernet? )
For now, 100-Gbit/s Ethernet is a science project with promise. Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) has demonstrated transmission of a 100-Gbit/s Ethernet signal, a result the company discussed at this week's OFC/NFOEC. The key point was that the experiment used 40-Gbit/s componentry. "There's no dramatically new component in there," says Martin Zirngibl, a networks research director with Lucent's Bell Labs .
The next step would be to show 100-Gbit/s Ethernet switching, something Bell Labs thinks it can do using FPGAs and tricky memory technologies. "It's a different challenge. You wouldn't put out a hero result on that at a conference like [OFC/NFOEC], but we do believe it's doable," Zirngibl says.
Looking at the more immediate future, the IEEE is ready to work on 10-Gbit/s Ethenet PON (passive optical networking), the quantum-leap successor to plain old EPON. Last week's IEEE meeting included a call for interest for the technology. The publicly available slides pitching the concept list 43 supporting companies including Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN), KT Corp. , Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), and UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI).
The move is a counter to the publicity GPON has received. (See RBOCs Aim for 10M GPON Subs and Nortel, Huawei Bid on GPON.) Supporters note the possibility carriers will abandon the track of IEEE-standard PONs, turning instead to GPON, an ITU standard. GPON runs at 2.4 Gbit/s downstream and 1.2 Gbit/s upstream, outdoing today's EPON rate of 1.25 Gbit/s in each direction.
Japan, which has deployed masses of EPON, was feared to be considering GPON as its next step. Some analysts, such as Michael Howard of Infonetics Research Inc. , think that danger has subsided, thanks to talk of faster EPON grades. Teknovus Inc. , an EPON chip vendor, has been particularly outspoken about the possibilities for faster EPON. (See EPON Evangelists Talk 10-Gig.)
Of course, the long-term future could be with neither technology. An NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT) executive speaking at last week's OFC/NFOEC reportedly said he'd prefer to just jump all the way to WDM-PON, a technology that delivers one wavelength to each home. (See Novera's Got a New PON Spin.)
Korea's Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) and Japan's KDDI Corp. have run trials of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, showing the idea is viable, according to IEEE documents.
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading