Energy Efficient Ethernet: IEEE 802.3az Defined

After two years and multiple drafts since first announced in 2008, this article says that the 802.3az specification, commonly known as EEE (Energy Efficient Ethernet) is set for final ratification and a fast track to shipping products. The big question is, what does it mean for your enterprise?

“In a nutshell, 802.3az relies on feature-compatible chips being at both ends of a network link. They agree to go into very reduced power states for a certain amount of time and then wake up to see if there’s anything they need to respond to, says Glenn Cox, product manager for client Ethernet within Intel’s LAN Access Division ( ‘If not, they go back to sleep. So instead of using 0.5W like with a regular Gig connection, it drops down to about 50mW. It’s significant.’

“However, there is no easy firmware patch for upgrading to EEE. The technology requires a fundamental tweaking of a networking hardware component called the PHY (pronounced ‘fie,’ short for the OSI model’s physical layer), which connects the network device’s MAC (media access control) to the copper or optical cable medium. EEE addresses Ethernet PHYs with 100Mbps, 1,000Mbps, and 10,000Mbps speeds. Early 802.3az drafts sought to also cover 10Mbps PHYs, but this was ultimately set aside given that legacy Ethernet already operates at roughly 100 to 150mW, a low enough level that EEE wouldn’t offer much benefit in return for the engineering effort.”

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