100G Ethernet

Internet2, ESnet Want Their 100-Gig

It's not just a test: ESnet and Internet2 want live 100-Gbit/s Ethernet interfaces by 2010, and they've enlisted vendors to help them do it.

The two research networks, along with Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), and Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT), announced their project today at the SC08 supercomputing conference. (See Coalition to Tackle 100 GigE.)

"We want to see a technology that can eventually support a single 100-Gbit/s flow," says Rob Vietzke, Internet2's executive director of network services.

And this isn't just a project to test out the upcoming Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.3ba standard for 100-Gbit/s Ethernet. "We're much more interested in seeing the interoperability in a real-world network, like a Level 3 POP [point of presence]," Vietzke says.

For Juniper, the Internet2 buildout will be a kind of rehearsal. The company hasn't brought out a 100-Gbit/s interface for its boxes yet. The company sees the ESnet/Internet2 buildout as a chance to firm up a production-ready interface for the T1600 core routers. "We don't want to build a one-time demo," says Luc Ceuppens, senior director of marketing for Juniper's service-provider side.

Juniper is also taking the opportunity to stress that the T1600 can handle 100 Gbit/s per slot right now, as opposed to the 400 Gbit/s per slot claimed for the upcoming Cisco ASR 9000 router. (See Cisco Pumps Up the Edge.)

Infinera, on the other hand, has already introduced a 100-Gbit/s interface for its trials with Internet2 and, more recently, XO. (See Infinera Demos 100GigE and 100-Gig Demo.) But a spokesman stresses that Infinera hasn't given a timeframe for making this into a commercial product. "We wouldn't announce a product this far in advance," he says.

Internet2 might be eyeing a 100-Gbit/s serial interface, but such a thing isn't yet available. For starters, Juniper and Infinera will be using commercially available pieces to build an interface with 10 lanes each carrying 10-Gbit/s traffic. That's "the only piece of the IEEE standard that is basically done" anyway, Ceuppens says.

That interface requires 10 fibers, which get bundled together by an MTP connector so that a single cable comes out of the router or WDM box to connect to neighboring equipment -- but it's still 10 fibers in each direction, for a total of 20.

A 4x25 interface is more promising. It would consist of four 25-Gbit/s wavelengths multiplexed onto one fiber -- meaning you get two fibers per connection, rather than 20. Moreover, that fiber would be single-mode fiber, which is usable over longer distances than the multimode fiber used in the 10x10 interface. But that part of IEEE 803.ba isn't completed yet; moreover, the 25-Gbit/s optics aren't ready.

Still, a 10x10 interface will suffice for now, and it's going to be in demand even though more elegant interfaces are coming later. "There's enough pent-up demand on the research side, and also with some commercial customers, for 100-Gbit/s Ethernet to bridge the time," Ceuppens says.

Demand at Internet2 and ESnet isn't the same as what telecom carriers would experience, though. "Commercial networks are used to seeing tens of thousands of small flows. We're used to seeing a few dozen very large flows," Vietzke says, noting that an individual researcher's work can fill up a 10-Gbit/s connection these days.

"If you've got three or four folks who are doing 10-Gbit/s flows or 8-Gbit/s flows, those don't stripe across 10 Gbit/s like thousands of small flows do," he says.

Seeing this kind of demand escalating, ESnet and Internet2 decided to press their vendors to get to 100 Gbit/s more quickly, with Internet2 taking the lead on getting them together.

"We thought it would be a challenge to the vendor community," Vietzke says. Instead, the companies decided to formalize a pact to develop and test 100 Gbit/s Ethernet together -- there's a signed memorandum of understanding and everything, Ceuppens notes.

"It's pretty exciting to see this kind of momentum. This is what 40 Gbit/s was lacking a couple of years ago," Ceuppens says.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:26:39 PM
re: Internet2, ESnet Want Their 100-Gig Talk is cheap. These vendors need cash in order to fund 100G development. Without a viable economic model for either the telcos or their equipment vendors, no funding will be available for this work.

Perhaps the Obama admin will stump up some federal R&D $ to get things going. Otherwise, forget it. We will wait for the Japanese or Chinese to do the work for us.
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