100G: Ready for Prime Time

Most telecom and network equipment manufacturers are now shipping products with 100G ports.

Simon Stanley

May 26, 2015

4 Min Read
100G: Ready for Prime Time

User demand and the introduction of the latest 100G optical modules and related physical layer (PHY) devices have positioned 100G for significant growth through 2016/17.

The majority of systems in many sectors of the long-haul, metro and enterprise markets are already shipping with 100G ports. Fifth-generation CFP4 and QSFP28 optical modules in the data center and enterprise enable greater port density, lower power consumption and significantly lower cost of ownership for 100G connectivity. Second- and third-generation DSP solutions have dramatically reduced the power and footprint for 100G coherent and other long-distance solutions. The result is that we have now reached the tipping point where more companies are shipping 100G ports than not, as 100G has become more attractive than multiple 10G or single 40G ports for many applications.

This is one of the many key findings in the latest edition of Heavy Reading Components Insider, "100G Components User Survey: Market Outlook," based on an exclusive worldwide survey that drew responses from 79 professionals that represent 50 different telecom and networking equipment manufacturers. The report charts support for 100G and 400G ports and the types of system that support 100G ports. It includes information on the use of different 100G technologies and Ethernet port types, including recent multi-source agreement (MSA) proposals and the different 100G optical module form factors. Respondents were also asked which PHY and optical module vendors they used, how they rate each PHY and optical module supplier on the overall quality of their 100G products, and what the most important features are when they select optical modules.

The report includes information from previous surveys in 2011 and 2013, providing valuable trend data.

Rapidly growing data bandwidth is driving demand for 100G connections in data center, enterprise, metro and long-haul networks. Many systems now support four or more 100G ports on each line card, with some systems supporting many hundreds of 100G ports. Ethernet is the dominant network technology across all parts of the network. Dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) and optical transport network (OTN) are important in the metro and long-haul network. InfiniBand is mainly used in a relatively small number of supercomputing systems and financial trading sites where high bandwidth and low latency are particularly important.

More than 60% of the companies covered by the survey are shipping systems with 100G ports. The types of systems shipping with 100G ports include long-haul DWDM systems, metro Ethernet equipment and a wide range of systems across the core edge and access networks. The results of the survey suggests that since 2013, the number of companies shipping 100G ports has almost doubled, and the number of companies shipping 400G ports has almost quadrupled. 100GBase-LR4, which supports up to 10km, is now the most important 100GE port type. The survey shows that there will also be an important role for several alternatives defined by MSA (multi-source agreement) groups, such as 100G CLR4, CWDM4, OpenOptics and PSM4 for distances between 500 meters and 2km. There is also interest in a solution based on DMT (Discrete Multitone).

100G PHY solutions are now available from approximately 20 vendors, including FPGA suppliers Xilinx, Altera and Achronix. There has been significant growth in the number of companies primarily using FGPA solutions instead of merchant PHY devices or ASICs. The leading merchant PHY device vendors include Broadcom, ClariPhy, Inphi and PMC-Sierra. 100G PHY devices include gearbox devices, coherent transceivers, CDRs and packet-optical transport platform (P-OTP) devices.

CFP remains the most important pluggable optical module form factor for enterprise and metro applications. CFP2 is widely used in 100G data center applications, although QSFP28 and CFP4 are expected to quickly replace CFP and CFP2 in many data center and enterprise systems. CFP pluggable modules are replacing 168-pin optical modules in some metro and long-haul systems, and CFP2 modules without a coherent DSP (CFP2 ACO) are expected to be widely used in future long-haul systems. Finisar is the leading optical module manufacturer out of the 30 already shipping 100G modules.

100G connectivity is now ready for widespread deployment. This places 100GE approximately seven years behind 10GE, which reached this tipping point against gigabit Ethernet during 2008/2009. There are many further developments underway to both reduce the cost of 100G and accelerate deployment of 400G. The results of the survey suggests the industry will move quickly to adopt the latest solutions and would like to ship 400G on a significant number of systems within the next two years.

— Simon Stanley, Analyst, Heavy Reading Components Insider

This report, 100G Components User Survey: Market Outlook, is available for $900. For more information, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/commchip.

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About the Author(s)

Simon Stanley

Simon Stanley is Founder and Principal Consultant at Earlswood Marketing Ltd., an independent market analyst and consulting company based in the U.K. His work has included investment due diligence, market analysis for investors, and business/product strategy for semiconductor companies. Simon has written extensively for Heavy Reading and Light Reading. His reports and Webinars cover a variety of communications-related subjects, including LTE, Policy Management, SDN/NFV, IMS, ATCA, 100/400G optical components, multicore processors, switch chipsets, network processors, and optical transport. He has also run several Light Reading events covering Next Generation network components and ATCA.

Prior to founding Earlswood Marketing, Simon spent more than 15 years in product marketing and business management. He has held senior positions with Fujitsu, National Semiconductor, and U.K. startup ClearSpeed, covering networking, personal systems, and graphics in Europe, North America, and Japan. Simon has spent over 30 years in the electronics industry, including several years designing CPU-based systems, before moving into semiconductor marketing. In 1983, Stanley earned a Bachelor's in Electronic and Electrical Engineering from Brunel University, London.

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