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400 GbE Moving Forward to Enable Terabit Networking Future

Interoperable standardized 400 GbE technology is being demonstrated at the European Conference on Optical Communication.

 By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Sep 27, 2018
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400 Gigabit per second Ethernet (400 GbE) is no longer just a theoretical idea; it's a standardized specification that is now real.

"400 GbE has finished standardization in 2017 in IEEE (IEEE 802.3bs)," Mark Nowell, distinguished engineer at Cisco, told EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet. "We’re now seeing the first products implementing the standards becoming available."

Nowell is at the European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC), which runs Sept. 23 - 27 in Rome, Italy. The ECOC marks what Nowell referred to as the first public demonstration of all the building blocks to fully enable standardized 400 GbE deployments.

Beyond interoperable standards, among the building blocks for 400 GbE is new hardware that goes beyond basic link aggregation for existing 100 GbE technologies.

"400 GbE requires new silicon and hardware to implement," Nowell said. "It is always possible to link aggregate 100 GbE’s in today’s products, but the increase in service speed to 50 Gb/s in the new silicon enables higher bandwidth solutions than the 100 GbE products."

Multiple vendors are now rolling out interoperable 400 GbE equipment, which is what's on display at ECOC, including gear from Cisco. Nowell said that the 1RU (rack unit) 32-port Cisco Nexus 3000 switches already support both 100 GbE and 400 GbE connection speeds.

The Nexus 300 was first introduced by Cisco back in 2011 and has been expanded with new modules and capabilities in the years since. 

Path to Terabit Networking

While there isn't yet a standard to enable 1 terabit per second Ethernet over a single optical wavelength for carrier transport, the promise of terabit networking is already being enable in terms of scale by 400 GbE.

"The total bandwidth of the 32-port 400 GE switch is 12.8 Tb/s which is what is driving the description of terabit scale," Nowell said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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