Five Ethernet standards planned by year-end

* IEEE groups say five Ethernet standards should be complete in coming months

Ethernet is on the verge of one of its biggest makeovers in some time. Before the end of the year, five different IEEE 802.3 task forces are scheduled to finish their work on Ethernet-related standards.

Two of them should make 10 Gigabit Ethernet a more realistic possibility for more users. The 802.3an task force is the one working on 10 Gigabit Ethernet over copper wiring, the so-called 10GBase-T. It may be standardized by the end of the summer. The 802.3aq task force is working on 10GBase-LRM, a lower-cost way of running 10 Gigabit over multimode fiber-optic lines. The task force is looking to finish its work by year-end.

With these standards in place, what you would expect is 10 Gigabit Ethernet to become more affordable. The adoption of 10 Gigabit has been slower than for some previous iterations of Ethernet, and it may be that a lower cost is what is needed to fire it up.

Another standard in the works is 802.3as, which would expand Ethernet's frame size to accommodate 802.1d, an addendum to the 802.1Q virtual LAN standard. That one could be wrapped up in just a few months. Ethernet's maximum frame size hasn't been changed in quite some time.

The fourth pending standard is for running Ethernet on a switch backplane, at 1Gbps and at 10Gbps. This mostly affects switch manufacturers rather than their users. It should be completed in the fall.

Lastly, the 802.3ar task force is working on a standard for communicating congestion management information and for limiting the rate of transmitted data on an Ethernet link. This standard effort isn't quite as far along, but the group is hoping to finish by year-end.

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