100G Ethernet coming to a Cisco rack near you?

IEEE spec looks at amending standard to accomodate backplanes and copper cabling

The IEEE this week announced the formation of a task group chartered to specify 100Gbps Ethernet operation over backplanes and short-reach copper cable assemblies. The work of the IEEE P802.3bj task force will be an amendment to the 802.3 Ethernet standard and it seeks to enable development of lower-cost, higher-density 100G Ethernet platforms.

Its success will be welcome: 100G pricing exceeds $100,000 per port from some vendors, which puts the technology out of reach for many customers. Currently, 100G Ethernet is offered on service provider routers -- Cisco, Juniper, Alcatel-Lucent and Brocade have products shipping or in trial.

Also, the footprint of a 100G Ethernet port allows for only one or two per switch module, which also makes in financially and operationally impractical. Formation of the P802.3bj task force, which was expected and grew out of a 100G Ethernet backplane and cable study group, seeks to define a new specification for a narrower cable interface, which could open up space in a switch for more ports. This will make densities more practical and lower prices for suppliers, which will drive volumes, the group hopes.

Members will define four-lane, 25Gbps electrical signaling architectures that will support 100G Ethernet operation across backplanes up to one meter in length and copper cable operations up to at least five meters in length, for intra- and inter-switch communications, the IEEE said. The group is also looking to ensure compliance and compatibility with other IEEE 802.3 installations.

All-in-all, IEEE P802.3bj should provide better options for system designers and users already pushing the limits of 10G, aggregated 10G, and perhaps 40G Ethernet links.

The task force is chaired by John D'Ambrosia, chief Ethernet evangelist in the CTO office of Dell. D'Ambrosia joined Dell via its recent acquisition of Force 10, and he also was instrumental is steering the definition of the IEEE 802.3ba 40/100G Ethernet standard.

D'Ambrosia also chairs an IEEE group canvassing users to determine future bandwidth needs for follow on standards work.

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