Higher, more cost-efficient speeds and getting better integration between IT and operational technology (OT) environments are two of the hottest areas of Ethernet development.\nThat was on display this week at the Optical Fiber Communication conference where the Ethernet Alliance issued its latest Ethernet Roadmap, and a variety of vendors showed off the interoperability of the ubiquitous networking technology, now nearly 50 years old.\n\n\u201cEthernet is the most important thing in the world that no one ever sees,\u201d said Peter Jones, chair of the Ethernet Alliance and distinguished engineer with the Enterprise, Data Center & IoT Networks group at Cisco.\nThe Ethernet Alliance has been on a mission to make Ethernet developments get the attention of the industry and has, with the exception of 2021, released the roadmap of key trends and directions since 2015 \u00a0to keep everyone up to date.\nEthernet speed is inevitably a hot topic.\u00a0 Ethernet has evolved from 10Mb\/sec to 400G and will go to 800G or possibly 1 terabyte Ethernet by about 2030, according to the roadmap. \u201cThe consumption of Ethernet bandwidth is not going to go down anytime soon,\u201d Jones said.\u00a0\nThe focus for now is the development and use of 400G Ethernet. The Dell\u2019Oro Group recently reported 400 Gigabit Ethernet shipments more than doubled, exceeding 2 million ports in 2021. And 400G deployments started to expand beyond just the hyperscalers, reaching smaller cloud service providers and large enterprises, according to Sameh Boujelbene, senior research director at Dell\u2019Oro.\nAI, machine learning are driving Ethernet speeds higher\n\u201cWith voracious appetites for applications like AI and machine learning, hyperscale servers have moved to 25GbE, and are transitioning to 50GbE, 100GbE and beyond,\u201d the Ethernet Roadmap says. \u201cUnique networking architectures within these warehouse-scale data centers have driven a mix of copper cables, multi-mode fiber, and single-mode fiber solutions at 100, 200 and 400GbE. The bandwidth demands of both hyperscale data centers and service providers continue to grow exponentially, and they are adopting similar technologies.\u201d\nLast year, the alliance noted a number of developments that support increased Ethernet\u00a0 speeds, including:\n\nIEEE 802.3cu, 100G and 400G operation over single-mode fiber at 100G per wavelength, has been published. The standard is designed to support cost-effective, more power-efficient single-mode fiber interfaces for 100G and 400G Ethernet using 100G optical technology to reduce cost and increase density.\nIEEE P802.3ck, 100G, 200G and 400G electrical interfaces based on 100G signaling, has progressed to the stage of working-group ballot. This standard, when completed, is intended to enable 100 Gbps electrical interfaces and support development of higher-density or lower-cost electrical interfaces for 100, 200 or 400G Ethernet.\nIEEE P802.3ct, 100G operation over DWDM (dense wavelength division multiplexing) systems, is complete and in final review before publication. The standard is significant as being the first Ethernet specification of coherent DWDM technology supporting 100G connectivity over lengths of at least 80 kilometers. IEEE P802.3cw, 400G Operation over DWDM systems, which is still in progress, extends the Ethernet specification for coherent DWDM technology to 400G.\n\nAs for the enterprise and campus networks the Ethernet Alliance says that over a billion Ethernet ports of all speeds are shipping per year. \u201cMost of these ports are BASE-T at the access layer, with both multi-mode and single-mode fiber links (MMF\/SMF) further into the network,\u201d the roadmap says.\nThe changing needs of Wi-Fi access points and Enterprise-class client devices are driving technology transitions. BASE-T ports are making the transition from 1000BASE-T to 2.5G\/5G\/10G BASE-T, and optical ports are moving from 10G\/40G to 25\/100G, according to the roadmap.\nOne Ethernet for IT and OT\nWhile higher speeds will influence the way Ethernet evolves, one area that needs development is integration of traditional IT Ethernet networks with industrial or operational Ethernet networks. Historically siloed IT and OT networks haven\u2019t been very effectively integrated, but they need to be to take advantage of automation and management and other tools, Jones said.\n\u201cIf we want Ethernet to succeed, we need to actually take Ethernet to the OT guys, not make them have to reevaluate their structures to be just like the IT guys are,\u201d Jones said. The ultimate goal is a single-protocol network that addresses the needs of both IT and OT.\nSome of that effort includes the development of the IEEE 802.3cg specification, published in February 2020, which defines the use of single-pair Ethernet (SPE) in many circumstances rather than a wide range of fieldbus cables, including RS\u2011485 twisted-pair, RG\u20116 coaxial, and instrumentation cables.\u00a0\nAutomation, building, and industrial applications are gradually moving from old fieldbus style networks to Ethernet but right now, those older protocols that still are in the edge of the OT networks are a barrier to moving forward, Jones said.\nAnother component of the roadmap is service-provider influence on the future of Ethernet.\nService providers \u00a0have driven higher speed Ethernet for decades, the Roadmap shows. \u201cTheir multi-service aggregation needs continue to grow with support for router connections, EPON, optical transport network (OTN), and wired and wireless backhaul,\u201d the roadmap says. \u00a0\nIn particular, 5G mobile deployment is driving dramatic increases in both fronthaul and backhaul applications, which continues to push Ethernet requirements for higher rates and longer distances. With a global consumption of video across devices, this shows no signs of changing, according to the alliance.\nMulti-vendor, optical Ethernet interoperability\nThe Ethernet Alliance will also use this week\u2019s OFC to show off multivendor interoperability across 50 to 800G technologies. The demo is expected to tie together Ethernet gear from 15 companies, including AMD, Arista, and Juniper.\n\u201cDemonstrating interoperability across a wide range of legacy systems and emerging technologies reinforces Ethernet\u2019s inherent flexibility and shows why it has established itself as the foundation of networking globally.\u201d said David Rodgers, Ethernet Alliance events chair and senior business development manager for telecommunications firm EXFO in a statement.