Interconnectedness and the Future of Ethernet - Page 2

The chairman of the Ethernet Alliance talks with ENP about SDN, vehicular Ethernet, Energy Efficient Ethernet, and more.

By Jude Chao | Posted Nov 6, 2013
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40GbE and cost considerations

At a time when some enterprises are still looking at migrating to 10GbE, D'Ambrosia and the Ethernet Alliance are far ahead. D'Ambrosia himself is currently chairing the 400GbE study group. Discussion at TEF 2013 revolved mostly around 10, 40, and 100GbE, however, and the main concern was cost.

"We still need to bring costs down. Cost is an issue that never goes away," D'Ambrosia said. As an example, he said that "a lot of what we're seeing when it comes to 40GbE isn't really 40 gig. It's a 4 x 10 used in a high-density mode for 10GbE, if you will, and that's a cost issue." To him, the main challenge moving forward is the need for solutions that ultimately drive costs down. It's almost a given that feeds and speeds must increase, he said—some people are already talking to him about terabit Ethernet—but cost creates an additional pressure to address.

With that being said, however, new developments are emerging. The Ethernet Alliance is now talking about 100 Gigabit Ethernet on a single lambda via a modulation, he told me, to achieve "higher effective data rates."

"When we look at an ecosystem perspective, we're looking at a new ecosystem developing that is based not on 10 Gigabit Ethernet, but on 100GbE," he said. And this isn't a simple decision to make or implement. The decision to move to 100GbE is so crucial that it must involve the entire industry, he told me, and must include careful discussion of the economics of the technology. In fact, the Ethernet Alliance is working with the Optical Society of America (OSA) to sponsor a workshop for further discussion on the topic.

Energy Efficient Ethernet

As networks grow and evolve, their power consumption may rise, creating additional cost issues. The Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) standard for twisted pair and backplane Ethernet aims to counter that by reducing power consumption as activity drops. D'Ambrosia has watched EEE develop over the years, until now, with the 400GbE project, "it is recognized as important and crucial to design."

D'Ambrosia called EEE an "apple-pie objective": its necessity is universally accepted, and no one argues against that. The Ethernet Alliance is now working on adding it to optical transport networking as well as copper, since the cost consideration makes it an increasingly important subject.

"It comes down to cost in my mind. If I can use less energy and save more dollars, that's what I'm going to do," he said. He added that "EEE is a very powerful tool that Ethernet now provides and will be providing in all technologies from copper 10GbE and up, and in the base-Ts, it goes down to even the lower speeds."

Interconnectedness and the importance of consensus-building

Addressing both the main themes D'Ambrosia mentioned—interoperability and cost concerns—will require a general consensus and interconnectedness among diverse segments of the networking community. Other TEF 2013 panels bear this out, from the panel session that pulled leaders from 802.1, 802.3, and 802.11 up onto a stage with the chair of 802, to sessions that focused on the synergy between wired and wireless technologies and on photonic integration.

"We're talking about stuff that affects the ecosystem. It's all becoming more and more interconnected, and you see that through the topics and discussions being brought up," he said.

Is it a lot to think about? Yes, but D'Ambrosia professes to love it, especially at this point in time.

"If you enjoy what you're doing, you never work a day in your life. I'm tired, and I'm busy, but I'm really enjoying myself right now," he said.

ENP editor Jude ChaoJude Chao is executive editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Follow her on Twitter @judechao.

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