"Tsunami" of bandwidth demand pushes IEEE 400G Ethernet standards process

Forms study group to go beyond 100G; standard expected in 2017

The IEEE this week launched a study group to explore development of a 400Gbps Ethernet standard to support booming demand for network bandwidth.

Networks will need to support 58% compound annual growth rates in bandwidth on average, the IEEE claims, driven by simultaneous increases in users, access methodologies, access rates and services such as video on demand and social media. Networks would need to support capacity requirements of 1 terabit per second in 2015 and 10 terabit per second by 2020 if current trends continue, the organization says.

[A BRIDGE TOO FAR? 100 Gigabit Ethernet: Bridge to Terabit Ethernet]

Cisco says mobile data traffic alone will increase 13X over the next four years and outpace global fixed data traffic by a factor of three in the 2012-to-2017 time period.

It is these trends that are prompting the IEEE to consider an Ethernet solution beyond 100G -- even though 100G products are just coming to market -- and to launch a study group to explore development of a 400G Ethernet standard, says John D'Ambrosia, chair of the new IEEE 802.3 400Gbps Ethernet Study Group and chief Ethernet evangelist, CTO office, at Dell.

"If you look at bandwidth growth - we have cellphones, servers... there are already 40G servers - there's a tsunami in terms of bandwidth," D'Ambrosia says. "The iPhone didn't exist when we started 100G" Ethernet.

There's more wireless video than wireline, D'Ambrosia notes. And social media site Facebook is now supporting billions of users vs. the tens of millions it had when 100G was first explored in 2006.

So now is not too soon to get started. The standards work for 100G Ethernet began four years before the standard was finally ratified in 2010.

D'Ambrosia expects a similar timeline for 400G Ethernet: standard ratification in 2017.

The IEEE 802.3 400 Gb/s Ethernet Study Group is scheduled to meet during the IEEE 802.1/802.3 May 2013 Joint Interim, scheduled for May 14-17 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Ethernet.

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 25 years, 21 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

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