Ethernet bandwidth: How fast is enough?

Aug. 20, 2012
CNET article asks the question, "Can the venerable Ethernet standard handle a terabit per second?"

"Overall data usage on the Web is doubling every year," notes CNET's Stephen Shankland, in a new article ("Ethernet's future: How fast is fast enough?") that tackles -- certainly from the IEEE's perspective -- "the big question", i.e., "Can the venerable Ethernet standard handle a terabit per second?"

As quoted in the CNET piece, engineers polled in the IEEE's July 2012 Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment concluded that "the bandwidth associated with core networking was observed, on average, to be doubling every eighteen months."

"For 2015, we expect the bandwidth that needs to be supported to be 10 times what it was in 2010, and in 2020, 100 times what it was in 2010," commented John D'Ambrosia, chair of the IEE's new Higher-Speed Ethernet Consensus group that will lay the groundwork for the actual standard. A major component of that group's work will be to determine whether 400 Gbps or 1 Tbps is a better approach, said D'Ambrosia.

Related story:Spain tests live 400G fiber-optic network links

As reported by CNET's Shankland, "Right now, companies that build the networking hardware tend to favor the 400 Gbps option, but the customers who use the network hardware favor the 1 Tbps option, which is 2.5 times faster. The key question will be figuring out whether terabit Ethernet is economically practical for the hardware companies involved."

"People realize 400-gig Ethernet is technically and economically feasible. When you look at terabit ethernet, it's driven solely by demand," IEEE's Ambrosia added. "People know there's a tsunami of data coming. It's basic math: terabit is more than 400-gig, so we want a terabit. That's nice, but one has to worry about the technical feasibility and the economic feasibility."

Read the CNET article here.

Download IEEE 802.3's Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment (PDF - July 2012)

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