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IEEE mulls compromise standard for 40/100GbE

Posted: 04 Jul 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:compromise standard? 100GbE? 40GbE?

At a meeting in San Francisco this month, the IEEE group is set to propose an effort that will set the standards for both the 40Gbps and 100Gbps versions of Ethernet to meet the diverging needs of computer and communication companies. This is likely to be a historic decision point for the IEEE group trying to chart the future of Ethernet.

One camp of companies including Broadcom, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and others is standing firm that computers are best served by a 40Gbps standard. A separate camp including Cisco Systems and others believe core networking equipment needs an 100Gbps standard.

Compromise approach
Leaders of the so-called High Speed Study Group (HSSG) believe a compromise embracing both approaches could be the best route to breaking a logjam. HSSG has been at work for nearly a year and has to date requested two extensions of its work.

"The July meeting is an important one because each extension becomes more difficult to get and we do have to make a decision," said John D'Ambrosia, chairman of the group and a components scientist at Force10 Networks.

"The reality is at this stage we have two camps and they have both made their positions pretty clear to each other," D'Ambrosia said. "At this point my feeling is the study group will work toward a consensus where one group will develop both 40Gbps for computers and 100Gbps for core networking," he added.

More than 100 people have been attending the group's meetings. Traffic on the group's reflector site has been growing.

"There could be a lot of new technologies developed out of this effort," said D'Ambrosia.

Big question
One of the big questions behind such an effort will be how much common technology the two speed grades share. For example, it's not clear whether a 40Gbit and 100Gbit standard could share one encoding scheme and one approach to optical and copper cabling.

Currently, the group's charter calls for defining a 100Gbit media access controller that could send data over a 10m copper cable as well as longer optical cables. The 40Gbit proposal includes defining a 40Gbit backplane.

Technical proposals discussed so far have included using multiple parallel channels of optical fibre, multiple colors (called lambda) within a fiber, multiple conductors in copper cables or a combination of techniques.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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