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Ethernet on track for 40/100G spec

Posted: 09 Dec 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Ethernet  Telecom carriers  bandwidth  10 Gbit backplanes 

The IEEE 802.3ba group is on track to deliver a first cut of its standard for 40 and 100Gbps Ethernet in March. Despite the financial and technical challenges ahead, companies are already preparing to implement the specification in progress.

At a November 10 meeting in Dallas, the task force received more than 600 comments on its preliminary draft now out for review. The group expects to resolve the comments and have its first technically complete draft out for a vote by the working group in March.

"We're on track at least to get to the next phase," said John D'Ambrosia, a components scientist at Force10 Networks who is chairing the effort. "We are working on cleaning up the document, and there aren't massive changes being made," he added.

The spec supports a wide range of uses spanning 40Gbps backplanes to 40 kilometer multi-mode fibre links at 100Gbps. It includes 40 and 100Gbps links for 10 metre copper cables.

NetLogic Microsystems recently announced a physical layer chip for the spec. A group of companies conducted a 100Gbps demo in June.

"A lot of companies are doing evaluation now for what they can do with current and new systems," said D'Ambrosia. "The Internet exchanges and backbones are where you will see changes first," he added.

Telecom carriers were among the first to push for the standard, driven by the need to expand core networks in part to accommodate rising traffic from video and social networking. For example, the Amsterdam Internet exchange reported traffic increased since July 2008 from 300 to 528Gbps, D'Ambrosia said.

"The point is bandwidth is growing, customers need a road map and there is a lot of pressure on chip vendors to have solutions," he said.

Some proponents see the 40Gbps work serving large aggregation switches in data centres. "For those people, going to 40G will reduce a lot of cables," he said.

The shift won't be easy. Initial products are expected to gang multiple 10 Gbit channels, raising multiplexing the thermal issues. "These are engineering problems and they are getting worked out," D'Ambrosia said.

Eventually, vendors are expected to move to 20-25Gbit channels which will create new hurdles in signal integrity and require new connector designs. The Optical Internetworking Forum has launched a program to define interfaces at 20G and beyond.

The 40 and 100G designs will need new levels of equalisation, although the spec plans to leverage work done for 10 Gbit backplanes in feed forward and decision feedback techniques. The new data rates will also raise issues in crosstalk and test procedures as well.

"These are engineering problems, not show stoppers," said D'Ambrosia.

-Rick Merritt
EE Times

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