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Copper 10 Gig milestone

Jul 29, 20032 mins

* IEEE 802.3ak copper 10 Gigabit group continues to move rapidly

Last week the IEEE task force working on the short-distance copper version of the 10 Gigabit Ethernet specification continued its speedy pace toward standardhood.

At the San Francisco meeting, comments on draft 4.1 of the spec were resolved, and the group now has moved to Version 4.2.

IEEE 802.3ak Task Force Chair Dan Dove of HP wrote in the group’s e-mail reflector that the hope is that this draft will go through its 15-day cycle with no comments registered. That would clear the way for the next step, where the number would simply be changed to 5.0 and the spec would go out to sponsor ballot, Dove wrote.

The rapidity of the progress on 802.3ak has been remarkable. Once a standard is in place, enterprise companies and service providers both would have an alternative to more costly fiber-optic 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Distances would be short, but there would still be interesting connection options within small spaces, such as data centers.

When 10 Gigabit Ethernet is available to mere mortals, no doubt some will find uses for it. But what about the next step?

Back when the original 10 Gigabit Ethernet was nearing completion, copper 10 Gigabit was off the table – and some in the industry were starting to look ahead to the next big bandwidth bump. Would it be 40G bit/sec, or could we push ahead to 100G bit/sec?

But that was back in the service provider heyday, when bandwidth needs were projected into the stratosphere. Getting 10 Gigabit cheap was less important than getting 100 Gigabit soon.

Now, that’s reversed, but at some point the question of even higher speeds is bound to be revisited.