Faster Ethernet Pledged By 25GbE Consortium

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Tech giants including Google and Microsoft back new consortium to develop 25GbE and 50GbE specifications for data centres

A new open consortium is planning to deliver faster Ethernet connectivity within next generation, cloud-scale data centres.

Known as the 25G Ethernet Consortium, the industry group is backed by some notable names within the tech industry, including Google Microsoft, Arista Networks, Broadcom and Mellanox Technologies. The aim of the consortium is to “enable the transmission of Ethernet frames at 25 or 50 Gigabit per second (Gbps) and to promote the standardisation and improvement of the interfaces for applicable products.”

To this end, it has announced the availability of a new specification (royalty free) that is optimised to allow data centre networks to run over a 25Gbps or 50 Gbps Ethernet link protocol.

“This new specification will enable the cost-efficient scaling of network bandwidth delivered to server and storage endpoints in next-generation cloud infrastructure, where workloads are expected to surpass the capacity of 10 or 40 Gbps Ethernet links deployed today,” said the consortium.

Speed at the Top of Rack

Ethernet cables network lights © marutti ShutterstockThe group aims to develop an industry-standard, interoperable Ethernet specification that will reduce interconnect cost per Gbps between the server Network Interface Controller (NIC) and Top-of-Rack (ToR) switch. It also hopes to boost performance as well.

According to the group, the specification adopted by the Consortium prescribes a single-lane 25 Gbps Ethernet and dual-lane 50 Gbps Ethernet link protocol, enabling up to 2.5X higher performance per physical lane or twinax copper wire between the rack endpoint and switch compared to current 10 Gbps and 40 Gbps Ethernet links.

“The companies joining the 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium are taking a major step forward in increasing the performance of data center networks,” said Anshul Sadana, Senior VP, Customer Engineering, Arista Networks. “With ever-increasing server performance and with the uplinks from the leaf to the spine layer migrating to 100 Gbps in the near future, it makes sense to increase the access speed from 10 Gbps to 25 and 50 Gbps.”

“The new Ethernet speeds proposed by the Consortium give superior flexibility in matching future workloads with network equipment and cabling, with the option to ‘scale-as-you-go,’” said Yousef Khalidi, Distinguished Engineer, Microsoft. “In essence, the specification published by the 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium maximizes the radix and bandwidth flexibility of the data centre network while leveraging many of the same fundamental technologies and behaviours already defined by the IEEE 802.3 standard.”

Data Overload?

The new consortium launches as the amount of data being created and moved over networks continues to increase at a rapid rate, thanks to trends such as cloud computing, mobility and big data.

Some companies, such as Microsoft and Google, are already investing heavily in building or expanding their own fibre optic networks. Last week Google was reported to be considering investing in a new multi million dollar cable that will span the Pacific Ocean.

It has also expanded its Google Fiber Network in the United States to 34 cities. Apparently, much of Google’s bandwidth is reserved for its private “B4″ network, which handles emails, YouTube videos and other traffic among about a dozen of its data centres.

Microsoft is also reportedly in talks to help build a cable connecting China, South Korea and Japan with the US, to help it shuttle data stored by its Azure cloud-computing service.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standards body has formed a new study group to explore the possibility of developing a new 400GBps Ethernet standard to support the ever increasing amount of traffic on networks.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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