100 Gig Ethernet. Where It’s At. Where It’s Going

The IEEE 802.3ba standard for 100 Gigabit Ethernet (100 GbE) was approved in June of 2010 and has been gaining adoption ever since. Multiple vendors including Juniper, Cisco, Brocade and Alcatel-Lucent have all announced 100 GbE solutions.

Major carriers — including Verizon and AT&T — are adopting 100 GbE as vendors ramp up their product offerings.

“An exact number is not immediately available, but Juniper has sold several dozen 100 GbE blades for the T1600, including some to Verizon, who recently announced plan for 100 GbE commercial service on select links in the U.S. and in Europe,” Luc Ceuppens, VP of product marketing for Juniper Networks told InternetNews.com.

As to why carriers are choosing to deploy 100 GbE, it’s often a question of the management cost of link aggregation complexity. Many carriers today have link aggregation strategies for the 10 Gigabit Ethernet links.

“Most customers will need to make a decision of continuing to go down the path of 10 gig link aggregation to address bandwidth needs, versus jumping over to 100 gig,” Ken Cheng, vice president, Service Provider Products at Brocade told InternetNews.com. “There are pros and cons to both approaches.”

Cheng noted that spectrum exhaustion is one reason why 100 GbE has an advantage. So instead of putting a 10 gig stream of traffic onto a fiber, a provider can put 10 times that amount on the same fiber, which makes it more cost effective.

“So even though customers tend to think of 100 GbE as being expensive, when you take into consideration the access to fiber, 100 GbE is quite reasonable and economical,” Cheng said.

Cheng added that service providers are seeing longer network flows that live longer. He noted that networks used to be dominated by small packets, but with video and large file transfers there are larger flows.

“This is the type of traffic that is not easily served by a network based on 10×10 gig connectivity,” Cheng said. “With larger flows, it’s harder to fit into a LAG (Link Aggregation Group).”

All that said, Cheng noted that on a capital expenditure basis, the cost of 100 GbE is currently sometimes higher than a 10×10 gig deployment.

“As this is the first generation of 100 GbE costs the equipment costs can be higher,” Cheng said. “Over time with innovation and economies of scale, the costs will come down.”

100 GbE Standards

Cisco is also pushing its 100 GbE capabilities, which are a key part of their CRS-3 core routing platform. Cisco however doesn’t see their solution as being the same as what rival Juniper is offering.

“Other vendors such as Juniper might be touting 100 GbE but if you really look at what they’re doing it’s not 100 GbE in its true form,” Stephen Liu, senior manager of service provider marketing for routing and switching solutions at Cisco told InternetNews.com.”

Liu said that the Juniper 100 GbE implementation is a 2×50 Gbps approach.

“There are real downsides to 2 x50,” Liu said. “It may sound the same but it’s not necessarily the same.”

Liu also alleged that the Juniper 100 GbE implementation is not interoperable with 100 GbE solutions from other vendors.

Juniper disagrees.

“Juniper’s 100 GbE is fully standards compliant,” Luc Ceuppens, VP of product marketing for Juniper Networks told InternetNews.com. “We have also done full interoperability testing with solutions from all of the leading vendors.”

Cueppens also address the 2 x 50 GbE deployment question.

“Juniper’s 100 GbE for the T1600 is logically 2×50 GbE, but it is not an issue for any of our customers,” Cueppens said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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