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Group's aim: Unify Ethernet speeds, apps

Posted: 12 Jan 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Loring Wirbel? Ethernet? Brad Booth? Ethernet Alliance? IEEE?

The creation of a corporate alliance to unify all speeds and applications of Ethernet is engaging a great deal of Brad Booth's attention these days. As president of the new Ethernet Alliance, which will be publicly announced this week, Booth said that the need to provide a comprehensive one-stop shop for Ethernet information outside the IEEE itself was a key factor that drove his and others' efforts in forming the alliance.

Booth, who was active in the Fast Ethernet Alliance, Gigabit Ethernet Alliance and 10Gb Ethernet Alliance while he developed Ethernet products at Intel Corp., has also discovered that since the 10Gb Ethernet Alliance wrapped up its business two years ago, new applications for Ethernet have mandated a wider mission for the new organization.

Ethernet is being used as a Layer 2 data aggregator in server clusters in data centers. It is being considered for backplane or interconnect switching systems that may compete directly with the likes of RapidIO or PCI Express Advanced Switching. It is being considered in automotive telematics applications, in factory floor networks, and as a home-based aggregator for such personal-area networks as ZigBee and near-field communication. That means the Ethernet Alliance must spread its targets for membership beyond the usual local-area- and wide-area-network fields.

Like the speed-specific alliances that came before it, the Ethernet Alliance will function as a liaison, a marketing aid and a technical profile director, operating between the working groups of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet efforts and the University of New Hampshire's Interoperability Lab.

In addition to the Interoperability Lab, founding members of the Ethernet Alliance include Broadcom, 3Com, ADC, Agere Systems, AMCC, Aquantia, Force10 Networks, Foundry Networks, Intel, Lawrence Berkeley Labs, Pioneer Corporation, Quake Technologies, Samsung, Sun Microsystems, Tehuti Networks, Tyco Electronics and Xilinx.

As a Layer 2 framing standard, Ethernet has reached a level of ubiquity in the 21st century similar to Internet Protocol at Layer 3. Chuck Seitz, founder and president of Myricom Inc., which offered Myrinet protocols for supercomputing, is fond of saying that the world is now partitioned into "Ethernet and Ether-not."

Booth said that while the alliance may not have a contrarian competitor, it needs to pull in advocates from new communities unfamiliar with Ethernet.

Other IEEE working groups relevant to home and data center markets where the alliance's activities could prove useful are Power Over Ethernet and POE+, for self-powered networks; 802.3ap Backplane Ethernet, for use in interconnect switching; and 802.1 Residential Ethernet, with guaranteed quality-of-service for home networks.

- Loring Wirbel
EE Times

John Walko in London contributed to this report

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