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Can the Ethernet Achieve the 400-Gbps Challenge?

Published on 13 November 13
Can the Ethernet Achieve the 400-Gbps Challenge? - Image 1
The growing number of Internet users is pushing the demand for higher bandwidth. Faster Local Area Networks or LANs are in soaring demand, primarily driven by the growth of mobile devices. Consequently, Web 2.0 giants, web hosting companies, cloud providers and enterprises were left with the job, and a profitable opportunity, of looking for improved interfaces and speeds. The birth of the Ethernet had solved connectivity issues then, but a new challenge has been put up -- the challenge to improve upon Ethernet and achieve speeds of up to 400 gigabytes per second (Gbps).

Ethernet and the 400Gbps Challenge

With companies like Facebook already in need of Terabit Ethernet, and with the overwhelming number of Ethernet devices in use all over the world, it is more than obvious that a new chapter in the history of Ethernet should be written. The creation of a faster Ethernet connection is the challenge that is being tackled right now by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers or the IEEE. In fact, a group was created to target this problem specifically, and was named the 400Gbps Study Group.

The groupâs chairman, John DâAmbrosia, said that since network builders are looking for different speeds to fit their needs, itâs hard to agree on a standard. And while they may know the speed they are targeting, and even some of the potential methods that could make the goal happen, the difficult part was to come up with a consensus on how to reach the goal.

In the previous standard-setting process where the 802.3ba standard was created, the group then was aiming for the 100Gbps standard. But since enterprise networks were not prepared for that speed, the specification had to include the 40Gbps standard as well.

An Unrealistic Goal?

Many analysts previously thought that the 400Gbps was a goal that was a little too aggressive and unrealistic, but as ambitious as it may sound, the group is looking to finalize the new standard by 2017, and industry experts are hypothesizing that it could be named 802.3bs - prompting many to start domain name registrations for the new standard.

The process of creating higher speed through Ethernet involves quite a few questions, such as what links should be put together to reach the target speed. These links may be in the form of optical wavelengths or multi fibers. The preceding standard was easy, where multiple 10-Gigabit Ethernet interfaces were used. But with the goal of 400Gbps, what could they use? DâAmbrosia thinks the best option is to utilize four 100Gbps interfaces, but other options include using eight 50-Gbps or sixteen 25Gbps connections. There are many other variables that need to be considered, such as component cost, the different kinds of fibers that can be used, and the length of cables.

In any case, the 400Gbps group is positive that the goal is not beyond achievable, and that the world will soon see the birth of 400Gbps Ethernet. As it is, we are driven towards this goal not because of want, but of need.

Sammy is a technical evangelist at TechGuruZone, and has a passion for all things tech. When he's not at his work, Sammy likes knocking back a beer with his buddies and playing video games.

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