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Cisco mulling membership in Google, Microsoft Ethernet group

Jim Duffy | July 9, 2014
Cisco is considering joining a handful of companies, including Google and Microsoft, that have defined a specification for 25Gbps and 50Gbps Ethernet for data centers requiring greater than 10/40Gbps.

Cisco is considering joining a handful of companies, including Google and Microsoft, that have defined a specification for 25Gbps and 50Gbps Ethernet for data centers requiring greater than 10/40Gbps.

The companies, which also include Arista Networks, Broadcom and Mellanox, have formed the 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium to promote standardization of the 25/50G Ethernet speeds and product development. The consortium is open to any interested company or organization, the companies said.

Cisco plans to join once it completes review of the application process.

"Cisco is reviewing the Consortium's Adopter Agreement, and plans to join as a member after the review is complete," a company spokesperson stated in an e-mail to Network World.

The consortium has received applications or interest from another five to 10 companies since its introduction last week, says Anshul Sadana, senior vice president of Customer Engineering at Arista.

Participants in the 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium will develop technologies in accordance with the consortium's 25/50G specification. Products developed to it are intended to scale network bandwidth to cloud server and storage endpoints, where workloads are expected to surpass the capacity of 10/40G Ethernet links deployed today.

Products compliant with the consortium specifications are also expected to lower the cost per gigabit and power consumption of these links.

"It's the sweet spot of the lowest price per gigabit," says Sadana.

The companies say they formed the consortium to support an industry standard, interoperable Ethernet specification for those speeds between a server NIC and a top-of-rack switch. The IEEE is not involved in the consortium or its 25/50G specification, having standardized 10G and 40/100G, and beginning work on 400G Ethernet.

The companies say the motivation for founding the consortium is to immediately set an industry standard definition of the 25G and 50G Ethernet physical layer (PHY) and media access control (MAC) layer behavior, including virtual lane alignment, autonegotiation, and forward error correction characteristics; and to enable the swift rollout of 25G and 50G Ethernet compliant implementations over the next 12 to 18 months through the participation of multiple semiconductor, networking equipment and interconnect vendors.

IEEE standards can take years to develop. Four hundred gigabit Ethernet isn't expected until 2017 even though work began on it last year. It took 12 years for 10G Ethernet to unseat Gigabit Ethernet as the predominant Ethernet networking technology in the data center; and the 40/100G 802.3ba standard was ratified in 2010, almost four years after the formation of a 100G High Speed Study Group that eventually acquiesced to demands to also include 40G.

"We can't simply wait for that to happen," Sadana says, who adds that an IEEE Call For Information (CFI) on 25/50G last March did not generate enough interest. He adds that 25/50G products will be backward and forward compatible with 10, 40/100, and 400G Ethernet products because they use the same IEEE 802.3 frame format.

 

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