On the horizon: 100 Gigabit Ethernet

On the horizon: 100 Gigabit Ethernet

IEEE chairman John D'Ambrosia on its project to create a 100Gbps Ethernet standard by 2010

There is a lot of talk that the YouTube phenomenon is among the key drivers for a 100G Ethernet standard. Are there other issues out there that a 100G Ethernet spec will solve?

YouTube is interesting -- it's experiencing 20 percent traffic growth per month and is constantly adding 10G links to support this growth. However, YouTube is not the only reason for 100G. The study group has had to prove that there is a need by addressing five criteria: broad market potential, compatibility, technical feasibility, economic feasibility and distinct identity. This has to be a unique and necessary solution.

A major part of this is broad market potential. You don't generate a spec for one customer that's out there. While YouTube is one of the content providers I talked about earlier in terms of applications and exploding bandwidth requirements, it is not the only one.

We are also considering the move to HDTV for many households.

Comcast charts the difference between standard traffic rates and high-definition traffic rates at 3.5Mbps vs. 19Mbps. If you look at the number of HDTVs being sold, that higher rate becomes critical to support.

Will the typical IT or data centre manager be affected by the move to 100G Ethernet?

People with large data centers will start to feel it if they don't feel it already. Applications will start driving bandwidth requirements of aggregated and individual links. One IT manager I know works in construction, and he told me how he could already use 100G today because of the reports his vertical application generates. Each report uses up about 30Mbps or 40Mbps of bandwidth. He's got a 60G pipe handling the load, but he worries that new platforms such as Vista might alter his requirements. He's already looking for workstations with 10G Ethernet links.

The medical industry is another example. The folks working on the Human Genome Mapping [Project] could use 100G to share information among university research groups. They already generate reams and reams of data. There are also MRIs -- the bandwidth requirements for these imaging machines are phenomenal. They can generate 500MB of data an hour. Think about the fact that the diagnostics being done for those images is now handled offshore in some cases. That's a lot of data to send back and forth.

And finally, there's disaster recovery and backup that needs to be dealt with within companies. All the data we're creating and consuming personally and professionally has to be stored and protected.

Gittlen is a freelance writer for

Why 100G?

Stephen Lawson

The IEEE 802.3 Higher Speed Study Group considered various speeds for the next-generation Ethernet, but 100Gbit/sec. won approval as the best goal. For now.

The IEEE 802.3 Higher Speed Study Group considered various speeds for next-generation Ethernet, including 40Gbps, 80Gbps and 120Gbps, but none of them garnered enough backing. It was 100Gbps that achieved the required 75 percent vote. The group weighed the time and effort required to achieve a speed against how well it would meet the needs that will exist when it becomes available, says group Chairman John D'Ambrosia.

Products are expected in 2009 or 2010, but the cycle never ends. "This will never be the last Higher Speed Study Group," D'Ambrosia says. "We'll get this done, and eventually, there will be a push for another speed after this."

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