Optical/IP Networks

10-Gigabit Ethernet Gets Marketing Muscle

Seven leading networking vendors announced the formation of the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance earlier this week, putting their combined marketing muscle behind the latest incarnation of the LAN technology that's beginning to invade carrier networks.

The Alliance aims to promote the use of 10 Gbit/s Ethernet, not just for high bandwidth connections within data centers but also for metropolitan area networks and even for long haul transmission systems.

It's a repeat performance of the Gigabit Ethernet Alliance, which led to rapid deployment and price reductions of the previous upgrade of the technology. And it promises to deliver similar results. Vendors are planning to roll out the first 10 Gbit/s Ethernet switches within a year, well before the IEEE 802.3ae task force has completed work on the standard. And prices promise to be so low that carriers will have to consider using it rather than Sonet (synchronous optical network) in some parts of their networks.

Right now, however, it's early days. Some key issues in the 10 Gbit/s Ethernet standard have yet to be ironed out and when the first products arrive, they're bound to have teething problems.

It's also clear that 10 Gbit/s Ethernet won't kill off Sonet, as some marketing mavens suggest. It can't be used over very long distances, and it can't deliver the same rock-solid quality of service guarantees as Sonet.

"With Sonet, you can take an OC192 circuit, and allocate one OC48 for voice, a second for ATM, and two for IP data. You can't do that with Ethernet. Even with the queuing and prioritization schemes now available for Ethernet, you can never quite achieve the same level of rigidity," says Jonathan Reeves, president and CEO of Sirroco Systems Inc.http://www.sirrocosystems.com a startup developing a Sonet multi-service provisioning platform.

In other ways, however, 10 Gbit/s Ethernet easily outguns Sonet. "In a pure data environment, where the only traffic consists of IP packets, it's an excellent choice," says Reeves.

"This is where optical networking and DWDM (dense wave division multiplexing) can really help - by supporting both 10 Gig Ethernet and Sonet at the same time, on the same device," he adds.

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