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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.

IEEE did not comment by press time. Cisco says another CFI is planned for the next IEEE plenary meeting July 13-18.

"Cisco believes that 25G Ethernet needs to be standardized and that IEEE is the right forum for standardization," the spokesperson says in the e-mail. "In the past Cisco has worked through IEEE with other industry leaders to standardize 1GbE, 10GbE, 40GbE, and 100GbE. Many other industry players, including some from the Consortium, are active participants in the preparations for the upcoming meeting and will state public support for the IEEE 25G standardization effort. Cisco also agrees with the 25G Ethernet Consortium on the value of promoting standardization and improving Ethernet Interfaces."

The consortium's specification prescribes a single twinax copper wire lane 25Gbps Ethernet and dual-lane 50Gbps Ethernet link protocol. The specification is being made available royalty-free by the consortium members to any data center vendor or consumer who joins the consortium.

The cost and power reduction per gigabit are due to the lower number of lanes 40G uses four 10G lanes 25/50G requires. Twenty-five gigabit products will not cost 2.5 times that of 10G, and 50G will cost less than 5x 10G, Sadana says.

The average selling price of a 10G fixed top-of-rack switch port in the first quarter was about $270, according to Dell'Oro Group. Dell'Oro believes 25G Ethernet will be a hot seller in the data center and may disrupt 40G's penetration as a server access technology.

"Most 100G is just four lanes of 25G," the market research firm states in its Q1 Ethernet switch market share report. "Thus, in supporting 100G, many components can be easily split to 25G. This could lead 25G to drive a better cost curve than 40G. If this occurs, despite not being a standard, 25G would likely spread beyond Microsoft," which Dell'Oro says confirmed plans in Q1 to use 25G in its data center.

It may spread to Cisco product development as well, Dell'Oro posits. Cisco and Arista are suppliers of top-of-rack switches to Microsoft data centers, which have the second largest installed base of servers.

"While each data center is likely competitively bid, if we assume that Microsoft does not choose a white box supplier, two major data center suppliers like Arista and Cisco will have 25G switches," the firm states. "In this scenario, these vendors would have an interest in selling their solutions beyond Microsoft in order to better leverage their investment in 25G."

Cisco would not confirm future development of a 25G Ethernet switch.


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