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New IEEE group to decide next-gen Ethernet standard

Posted: 22 Aug 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Ethernet? IEEE 802.3? 100G system? Optical Internetworking Forum?

The IEEE 802.3 Industry Connections Higher Speed Ethernet Consensus group was recently established to tackle the issue on whether the next standard for Ethernet should be at 400 Gbit/sec or a Terabit/sec. The newly established group also aims to pick a target and kick off a formal standards effort within a year.

The news comes as the IEEE 802.3 group overseeing Ethernet has officially published its Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment report. The report, developed over the course of the last year, validated the group's conclusions from an earlier study that demand for bandwidth is doubles every 24 months. The study concluded that at this rate, networks will need to support capacity requirements of a terabit per second in 2015 and 10 terabit per second by 2020.

John D'Ambrosia, chair of the new consensus group, stated that everyone is worried about the coming tsunami of data and that there is a lot of nervousness out there about how people will do it in a cost effective manner.

Chad Lucien

John D'Ambrosia

Currently, there are no economically viable solutions on the horizon for terabit rates. Bleeding-edge users state that the more practical 400 Gbit/s target is not enough to meet their needs.

Engineers are currently hammering out specifications for 25 Gbit/s serial lanes and starting work on 50 Gbit/s channels at the Optical Internetworking Forum. It would take 20 to 40 of those fastest channels working in parallel to deliver TBit/s Ethernet rates.

Past experience have shown solutions using even 16 lanes are at the edge of what is economically practical. That's in part because such dense parallel links push the limits of the number of pins that can be placed on a chip.

Thus some experts speculate the next big leap could require radical new modulation schemes or other breakthrough techniques. D'Ambrosia added that a technical paradigm shift to move to terabit must occur, but that shift is yet to occur.

The consensus group could decide to set both 400G and a Tbit as parallel goals. The last big Ethernet effort simultaneously delivered standards for 40 and 100G to serve different markets. The consensus group could also punt, putting out a call for interest for the next standard, but leaving the choice of a data rate to the follow-on group.

Whatever the decision, D'Ambrosia predicts within a year the consensus group will kick off a formal next-gen standards effort. He expects the follow on effort to take about three years, a year less than for typical next-gen Ethernet standards.

A broad group of chip, system and services companies are expected to take part in the consensus group, including everyone from optical component makers to carriers such as Verizon.

In a press release, Glenn Wellbrock, Verizon's director of optical transport, stated that Verizon is eager to begin the path toward IEEE standardization for the next Ethernet data rate beyond 100G to ensure the achievement of cost-effective and timely solutions.

D'Ambrosia expects collaboration between the IEEE and ITU to ensure that the optical networking standards set by the latter group are in harmony with the IEEE effort. Towards the end the consensus group will have its first meeting September 23 in Geneva on the heels of an ITU gathering.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

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