100G Ethernet

100G Standards Aim for Lower Costs

Vendors are hopeful that the standardization efforts around 100-Gbit/s transmission will pay off in the form of lower costs.

The hope is that they can learn from the hurried 40-Gbit/s generation, which got its start during the bubble and led to a panoply of modulation formats. In turn, that prevented the industry from building up any economies of scale -- a factor that's coming into play now, as 40-Gbit/s deployments gain steam.

Analyst Danny Dicks outlines the situation in the recent Heavy Reading Insider report, "Optical Transport: 40G/100G Interest Shifts Into Overdrive."

"While 2008 and 2009 have seen deployments of 40G systems around the world, such systems are not yet challenging 10G in terms of volume. The reason for this is essentially one of cost," Dicks writes.

"The 40G systems market has been held back because the price of systems has not been brought down to a point at which it is cost-competitive with 10G optical transport -- the cost of 10G systems and components, while not falling very fast, is still coming down."

So, the game is to prevent 100 Gbit/s from falling into that trap, by getting standards in place before mass deployment starts. On the Ethernet side, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.3ba standard is expected to be completed this year, covering client-side connections for 40-Gbit/s and 100-Gbit/s Ethernet.

Perhaps more importantly, the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) framework for 100 Gbit/s is pointing optical component vendors in the same direction, toward DP-QPSK modulation with coherent receivers.

The report points out that standards typically aren't needed for line-side optics, because there's usually no need for interoperability there. But it seems clear that the industry wants a standardized approach, in order to keep costs down.

The result could be accelerated adoption of 100 Gbit/s. In an Infonetics Research Inc. study published in December, more than 40 percent of the carriers surveyed said they would be willing to deploy 100-Gbit/s links once the price is only twice that of 40 Gbit/s. That's earlier than would be predicted by the conventional wisdom, which says customers will buy a fourfold increase in speed at a price 2.5 times the previous generation.

Even so, 40-Gbit/s interfaces can't be written off. Dicks's report quotes vendors saying they don't expect 100-Gbit/s deployments to hit substantial volumes for at least two years. (See Is 100G Transport Closing the Window on 40G?)

The report covers the 40-Gbit/s and 100-Gbit/s strategies of 13 vendors, describing which parts of the network each is going after and how far they've gotten in deploying or developing their products: ADVA Optical Networking , Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), ECI Telecom Ltd. , Ekinops SA , Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN), NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), Nokia Networks , Nortel Networks Ltd. , and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA).

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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