10-Gig Testers Turn Up the Heat

Ten-Gig Ethernet testers are making the scene in greater numbers, heralding an uptick in product rollouts UPDATED 5/29 11:30 AM

May 15, 2003

5 Min Read
10-Gig Testers Turn Up the Heat

Where testers go, products follow. That's the logic some industry observers see at work in a recent surge of 10-Gbit/s test equipment.

Tester vendors say their customers, the makers of routers, switches, and other gear aimed at enterprise and service provider networkers, are showing sufficient interest in 10-Gbit/s Ethernet to warrant a flurry of new gear. These tester buyers will use the new kit to launch products of their own in the coming months, the thinking goes.

Recent 10-Gbit/s testers cover the full range of what's needed, from component and product R&D to setting up systems on live networks. Here's a sampling of recent news:

  • Anritsu Corp. is on the verge of releasing a so-called "stressed eye" tester for subsystems and components meant to be receivers inside routers and switches. The term "stressed eye" refers to measurements of optical signal strength when test gear pounds 10-Gbit/s components and systems in preset ways -- ways defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) as part of its 802.3ae specifications for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet finalized last year.

    Up to now, just three vendors have offered stressed-eye testers for receiver modules: Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A), Circadiant Systems, and JDS Uniphase Corp. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) (see Casting a 'Stressed Eye' on 10G Tests). Anritsu's entrance into the commercial market signals greater demand for this kind of tester. Anritsu claims to have prototypes working in live customers labs, and a source at the vendor says general shipment is "nearly ready."

  • Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) announced on May 6 a 10-Gbit/s serial BERT tester that monitors and reports on the electrical characteristics of components and subsystems, such as line cards, that use serial transmission (see Agilent Unleashes Serial Killer). Examples include the inner workings of Infiniband, RapidIO, and Hypertransport buses, which are used to create faster links inside equipment used in storage area networks and data centers (see Dueling Interconnects Unmasked) -- precisely the areas where 10-Gbit/s Ethernet is widely expected to emerge first. Prospective users include makers of Fibre Channel switches, 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switches and routers, and next-gen Sonet gear. This is strictly a physical-layer tester, so the specific protocol involved doesn't matter.

  • Ixia (Nasdaq: XXIA) announced on May 6 a 10-Gbit/s module for use in its upper-layer tester chassis. Unlike stressed eye testers, Ixia's gear is focused on the performance of 10-Gbit/s data in systems, not subsystems or components.

    The new Ixia test module is meant to work as one of many modules crammed into a single chassis in "mix and match" fashion, which Ixia says saves money for developers and end users. The module packs a range of 10-Gbit/s tests in one unit (see Ixia Gooses Its Testers), which gauges the performance of OC192 Packet over Sonet and 10-Gbit/s LAN and WAN interfaces, as well as adding a BERT (Bit Error Rate Tester) for 10-Gbit/s links. Ixia plans more 10-Gbit/s product announcements for the upcoming Supercomm 2003 tradeshow in Atlanta.

  • Finisar Corp. (Nasdaq: FNSR) on April 29 unveiled the Xgig BERT, designed to measure the integrity of data traveling on 10-Gbit/s Ethernet channels and DWDM metro rings. The Xgig doesn't offer the signal measurements that a stressed-eye tester does, but instead focuses on generating specific bit patterns and rates to make sure equipment can keep data traffic flowing without errors. Finisar says the tester can be hooked up to an oscilloscope to create a kind of stressed-eye tester.

  • Spirent Communications on April 29 joined with Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) in a high-octane 10-Gbit/s Ethernet demonstration at the Networld+Interop tradeshow in Las Vegas (see Foundry, Spirent Demo 10-Gig Testbed). Spirent used its SmartBits TeraMetrics 10GbE Test System, which includes a range of performance analysis capabilities, to send up to 1.28 Tbit/s, or 480 million packets per second, "roughly equivalent to 180,000 simultaneous streaming DVD sessions," to Foundry's gear. Spirent says it already has over 100 customers of its 10-Gbit/s Ethernet test gear worldwide and that the demo proved the technology's readiness for hefty applications like grid computing and streaming video.

  • Innocor Ltd. announced on April 25 the first shipment of a new multi-rate module for its 10-Gbit/s test card to a "major" but unnamed Canadian telecom equipment manufacturer (see Innocor Ships Test Solution). Innocor's module lets users configure via software the optical features of a range of interfaces, including OC3 (STM1), OC12 (STM4), OC48 (STM16), and Gigabit Ethernet.

Apart from these announcements, there's other evidence that 10-Gbit/s Ethernet testing is getting more popular. This past December, staffers at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (IOL) had trouble drumming up support for a test of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet equipment. This week, they didn't.

Bob Noseworthy, 10 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium Manager at UNH, had his hands full when asked yesterday whether he thought more folk were getting interested in 10-Gbit/s Ethernet testing. "I have half a room full of them," he said. That wasn't the case six months ago, when he bemoaned a small turnout for a 10-Gbit/s test (see Casting a 'Stressed Eye' on 10G Tests).

What do you think? Take this month's Light Reading Research Poll on 10-Gigabit Ethernet.

Stress-testing 10-Gbit/s Ethernet will also be the subject of a Light Reading Webinar on May 23. For more information, click here.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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