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Ethernet: How high can it go?

IEEE starts work on standards that could lead to 40G or even 100G Ethernet.

By , Network World
November 22, 2006 11:37 AM ET

Network World - So, who could possibly need pipes that move traffic at 100 billion bits per second?

Let's start with bandwidth busters, such as YouTube, which streams video to millions of on-demand viewers. Throw in the world's busiest Internet exchanges. Add in government labs and large corporate data centers, and pretty soon you've got a groundswell.

That is why the IEEE created the Higher Speed Ethernet Study Group and charged it with developing standards that will take Ethernet beyond pokey old 10G.

"Traffic is doubling every 12 to 14 months. If the industry can't come up with a solution soon, we'll become bandwidth constrained," says Lane Patterson, CTO of Equinix, an Internet exchange carrier in Foster City, Calif.

At the YouTube Web site, traffic at peak times is hitting 25Gbps and is expected to climb to 75Gbps soon. "User traffic to our site is continuing to grow. We add multiple 10-gig circuits a month to meet this growth," says Colin Corbett, director of networking.

The problem for large-scale data centers, high-performance computing, R&D networks, Internet exchanges and content providers is that typically it takes as long as four years for the IEEE standards process to unfold. For companies approaching the breaking point today, that seems light-years away.

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