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Group probes PHY issues on data center apps

Posted: 18 Jun 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Ethernet? IEEE 802.3? PHY issue? data center?

The Ethernet Alliance recently formed a new Data Center subcommittee to address PHY and data-link-layer issues affecting the use of Ethernet in data center applications.

In the same way that many industry forums have created "profiles" to help developers work on implementations involving many standards bodies, the Ethernet Alliance hopes to navigate a suite of standards involving the IEEE's 802.3 task force, ANSI's T11 group on Fibre Channel over Ethernet, and even some protocol work of the Internet Engineering Task Force.

Ethernet Alliance chairman Brad Booth said the PHY choices of server interconnectssuch as fiber verses CX-4often gain the most attention. But data center implementations involve a wealth of technology choices involving many layers of the Open Systems Interconnect stack, such as low-latency application performance, a unified fabric over Ethernet, and energy-efficient Ethernet implementations.

At Layer 2, for example, the field of Data Center Bridging is studying discovery and exchange protocols, priority-based flow control, and congestion notificationareas previously studied in WAN-based protocols such as ATM.

"The complexity and low-latency of new data center services demand the complex QoS protocols that were once common to the WAN," Booth said.

"A new drive for a unified fabric has been spurred by the popularity of internet small computer systems interface, and by T11's work on the Fibre Channel over Ethernet standard," he added. "Fibre Channel PHY links will remain popular in storage subdomains, but network architects want to see one common fabric in the data center," he noted.

"There's a collective view that developing architectures and applications is much harder now with the advent of virtualization, IPTV and applications not really foreseen when Ethernet was a strict LAN technology," Booth said.

Ethernet Alliance works with the University of New Hampshire's Interoperatibility Lab, and will collaborate with IOL and member companies to study development of low-latency prototype applications using Ethernet.

- Loring Wirbel
EE Times

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