Please Sir, I Want Some More!

EthernetTo all those Olivers out there hungry for some more network, the IEEE feels your pain and is looking to enhance Ethernet. The global technical professional organization has formed the IEEE 802.3 Industry Connections Higher Speed Ethernet Consensus group to help develop the next speed of Ethernet.

The group’s launch in late August comes after the publication of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment report, which forecasts that, if current trends continue, networks will need to support capacity requirements of 1 terabit per second in 2015 and 10 terabits per second by 2020. The launch of the group will facilitate an open forum to explore the start beyond 100Gb/s Ethernet, said John D’Ambrosia, chair of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment Ad Hoc and IEEE 802.3 Industry Connections Higher Speed Ethernet Consensus groups and chief Ethernet evangelist, CTO office, Dell. He said the group will determine whether the IEEE should develop 400 Gigabit Ethernet, Terabit Ethernet, or both.

According to the report, bandwidth requirements of network-aggregation nodes are growing at an even faster rate than end-station applications, which initiate the transmission and receipt of data. The financial and data-intensive science sectors are growing the fastest, with compounded annual growth rates of 95% and 70%, respectively. “ESnet’s 100 Gbps network will keep it ahead of the data curve for a time, but within three to six years we predict the need for a minimum of 400 Gbps connectivity to meet data mobility needs of experiments in fusion, astrophysics, genomics, climate research and other fields,” said Gregory Bell, Director, Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), and Director, Scientific Networking Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

D’Ambrosia said the component and system vendors are in general moving toward 400 gigabit, and end users are looking at needs based on bandwidth demand. Electrical signalling for Ethernet components tops out at 25 gigabits today, so quad-signalling gets the industry to 100 GbE; to do 400 gigabit, it’s simply a by-16 interface, he said, but to achieve Terabit Ethernet would require a by-40 interface, which will get extremely expensive.

The continued demands for high bandwidth applications are sure to put a strain on both enterprise networks and bandwidth budgets, noted Henry Svendblad, Principal Research Analyst, Nemertes. “Look to this new standard to provide some needed relief.”

However, while the industry crafts standards and eventually technologies and products to make this brave new world a reality, there’s the escalating challenges of dealing with today’s networks drowning in more – and more – data, applications and users. In a cost-savings-oriented spending environment, optimizing networks will trump adding network capacity, said 451 analysts Jim Davis and John Mazur.

Image source: flickr (hdaniel)