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Ethernet moves forward with new tech

Posted: 20 May 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Ethernet  10GBase-T  FCoE  IEEE 

Separately, Infiniband chip maker Mellanox Technologies will demo what it calls Low-latency Ethernet at Interop. It uses a 10G interconnect with Infiniband-like RDMA characteristics to reduce latency to three microseconds, aiming at uses such as FCoE.

"Low latency Ethernet enables end users to derive tangible performance benefits from transaction intensive applications while reducing power and consolidating their SAN (FCoE) and LAN (10GbE) traffic on lossless 10 Gigabit Ethernet," said Michael Kagan, chief technologist of Mellanox in a press statement.

The FCoE standard is based on enhancements to the Fibre Channel spec by the T11 committee as well as complex work to create a lossless version of Ethernet as a transport. The later work handled by the IEEE 802.1 group is still in process and may not get ratified until next year.

Outlook for low power and 40+ G
The Ethernet Alliance is working with a handful of other technologies that are in an early phase of development and not yet ready for demos on the Interop show floor. They include a standard for so-called Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) that requires a new physical layer chip as well as adjustments to higher-layer protocols.

The IEEE 802.3az group may have a version of that spec approved by its working group as early as July. That could trigger work on silicon that could emerge six to nine months later, Booth said.

Most of the EEE chips will likely target 10G, but "a few vendors may have stuff in lower speeds late this year," said Booth. "We expect it will take until mid-2010 before we have public demos," he added.

The next big leap for Ethernet is to 40G and 100G versions being created by the IEEE 802.3ba group. The Alliance hopes multiple vendors will have products ready to demonstrate as early as next March.

The .3ba group met in Quebec City earlier this month to resolve nearly 800 comments made to its draft spec. "That was actually less than we were expecting for our first working-group ballot," said John D'Ambrosia, a component technology scientist for Force 10 Networks who chairs 802.3ba.

A new version of the draft could be available as early as June, and the Alliance is beginning to look at testing and certification programmes for it. "People are already looking at how to do this stuff using FPGAs," D'Ambrosia said.

"There's a lot of people building silicon to it," said Booth. "A lot of the spec was based on work in 10G, and building off that makes life a lot easier," he added.

Systems vendors hope to have products ready for telcos and data centres to test by the end of the year. But "most people are very, very quiet about where they are" with their 40/100G products, Booth said.

Like 10G, the 40/100G specs are targeted at servers, switches and other systems used in big data centres and carrier networks. Nevertheless, D'Ambrosia said the effort was launched with more participation from end users than the previous gigabit generation.

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