Ethernet Alliance points to 800GbE, 1.6TbE future

September 18, 2019 | 11:55

Tags: #16tbe #400gbe #800gbe #ethernet #greg-mcsorley #networking #terabit-ethernet #terabit-networking

Companies: #ethernet-alliance

The Ethernet Alliance has demonstrated its 400 gigabit Ethernet (400GbE) connectivity standard, while promising that 800GbE is right around the corner with 1.6TbE projected to follow right behind.

The Ethernet standard, developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Reseach Centre (PARC) in the 1970s as an upgrade to the older ALOHAnet, started life off relatively slowly: Its initial implementation offered just 2.94Mb/s of throughput, which was upgraded to 10Mb/s - known using the modern format as 10MbE - prior to its public release in 1980. Throughout the 1980s Ethernet fought off a range of rival networking standards, and today is by far the most common - and, thanks to a range of upgrades, pretty speedy. The initial 10Mb/s Ethernet became 100Mb/s, then 1Gb/s, then 10Gb/s - and while even the most advanced home users stop there, standards exist for 2.5Gb/s, 5Gb/s, 25Gb/s, 40Gb/s, 50Gb/s, 100Gb/s, 200Gb/s, and 400Gb/s.

The latter is currently where Ethernet hits its limit, but the Ethernet Alliance - a consortium of companies currently responsible for developing the eponymous networking standard - is preparing 800GbE, which as the name implies offers 800Gb/s throughput, while suggesting that 1.6TbE could launch alongside it or shortly after.

'Ethernet is bursting through speed barriers at a breakneck pace. With higher speeds and longer reaches, it’s now pushing past its history as an innovative consumer technology into diverse new markets and application spaces like enterprise storage, automotive, and building automation,' claims Greg McSorley, president of the Ethernet Alliance, following the development of demonstrations scheduled for the European Conference on Optical Communications (ECOC 2019) later this month. 'The 400GbE era is here but it’s only a stepping stone along the road to 800GbE. The secret to Ethernet’s continued success has always been and will continue to be interoperability. Getting traffic to travel seamlessly from today’s legacy implementations into tomorrow’s high-speed switches and ecosystems comes down to preserving Ethernet’s capacity for multi-vendor interoperability, which is highlighted in our ECOC 2019 demo.'

The Alliance, however, is somewhat quiet on exactly when the 800GbE and 1.6TbE standards are likely to be ratified: The public roadmap has them pushed projected for around 2022 or later - though only as 'possible future speed' rather than a fully-confirmed theoretical throughput limit - which has been its target since unveiling its plans back in March 2018.

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