Ethernet Alliance Welcomes 100GbE Into the Fold

Vendors are lining up behind Ethernet's next frontier, even as standards remain to be settled.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Nov 19, 2008
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The path to 100-gigabit Ethernet (100GbE) may be getting a bit smoother, with industry players joining forces this week to promote the high-speed networking standard and extend the technology's benefits to the nonprofit educational and research network Internet2.

In a move to combine their advocacy efforts around 100GbE, the Ethernet Alliance (EA) said it would merge with the Road to 100G Alliance. The effort will see EA's members -- including Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent, IBM, Dell, Intel and Cisco -- joining forces with participants in the Road to 100G Alliance, like Sprint-Nextel and NetLogic, and working together to develop and promote the next-generation networking standard.

Additionally, a number of 100GbE's backers, like the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) as well as vendors like Infinera, Juniper Networks and Level 3 Communications, said they would work together in deploying 100GbE on Internet2.

The announcements signal growing momentum for what promises be the fastest Ethernet standard to date, with expectations high for 100GbE's finalization and its eclipsing of the current high-speed champion, OC-768, also known as 40Gbps. A study by Infonetics Research said revenue from 100GbE could overtake OC-768 as early as 2013 -- which is good news for industry stakeholders who have been actively pushing 100GbE for years.

"The Ethernet Alliance has been a strong supporter of 'the 100GbE standard' from the early days of assisting with the call-for-interest through the formation of the study group and task force," Brad Booth, the Ethernet Alliance's chairman, told InternetNews.com. "Our members plan to continue to support the standards effort and interoperability testing. There is still plenty for the EA to do support 100G."

However, there is still work to be done before 100GbE even makes it out of the gate.

"The standardization work for 100GbE interfaces is still underway, and until this process is finished, there will be no production-ready 100GbE products," Luc Ceuppens, director of product marketing for Juniper's high-end systems group, told InternetNews.com. "We expect the standards to be finalized by mid-2010 and commercial, production-ready equipment will be available soon thereafter."

Even before the final standard is ratified, vendors are already hard at work testing leading-edge, in-development technology for 100GbE on Internet2, a high-speed network that currently connects over 50,000 research and education institutions in the U.S. and interconnects with over 80 international research networks.

At present, Internet2 works by aggregating 10GbE (10G) links -- but that's an approach that its operators see facing limitations as needs grow more demanding.

"Today, the Internet2 Network operates a 100 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) backbone utilizing ten 10-Gbps waves," Rob Vietzke, Internet2's executive director of network services, told InternetNews.com. "While 10 Gbps or 10GbE services can be aggregated together to create a total capacity of 100 Gb, there are still limits on the flexibility of managing a network based on 10G services. As data flows continue to reach several gigabits per second, the 10G service becomes less and less suitable, making the path toward 100GbE a natural next step."

Vietzke explained that Internet2 faces many of the same issues as commercial carriers in terms of wanting to avoid bundles of link-aggregated 10G interfaces between its routers. For one thing, he said link groups are cumbersome and not an ideal way to grow headroom on the network.

In contrast with commercial carriers, though, Internet2's high-bandwidth needs may be even more acute: Internet2 power users' applications can generate individual host-to-host flows in the 7-9 Gbps range, which is different from the commercial Internet which sees tens of thousands of small flows on a single 10G link.

Vietzke said the current Internet2 network is built using Infinera optical gear and Juniper routers, which means that as part of the new initiative, Internet2's existing vendors will be working together to help migrate it to a 100GbE solution.

"The beauty of our collaboration with Juniper, Infinera and Level 3 is that we will be able to create a test bed on our network, utilizing our existing equipment, to ensure we understand the operational requirements needed to make 100 GbE a reality on our production network," Vietzke said.

Both Juniper and Infinera are active in other efforts to push 100GbE. At the NXTcomm Las Vegas show this year, Infinera demonstrated an early 100GbE implementation that carried traffic from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com

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