RealTime IT News

Don't Bet Against Ethernet

LAS VEGAS -- In a town where gambling is the primary industry, Ethernet supporters want to prove it's never a good idea to bet against the 30-year-old technology.

That is the goal of the year-old Ethernet Alliance, a multi-vendor group that promotes and demonstrates the latest and greatest in Ethernet standards technology. At its birthday celebration here this week at Interop, it is demonstrating 10GBASE-T, a new standard for 10GbE over standard unshielded cables, and Power over Ethernet (PoE). In addition, it will demonstrate 10GBASE-LRM, a long-range optical technology for 10GbE, and Backplane Ethernet.

"In the past there has always been an alliance in some way shape or form for Ethernet to support a particular standard or technology, whether it was the Fast Ethernet Alliance, Gigabit Ethernet Alliance or the 10 GbE Ethernet Alliance," Brad Booth, president of the Ethernet Alliance, told internetnews.com.

"We really didn't have an overall voice once those specific alliances went away, and vendors realized that a third-party group that can promote Ethernet standards and how they work was necessary."

Among the standards that the Ethernet Alliance is promoting is 10GBASE-T, which provides for 10GbE speeds over existing Category 6 cabling up to a distance of 55 meters.

Booth said that in order to do distances of greater than 55 meters, a new type of cabling would be required. That cabling would be the CAT 6a cabling, which has yet to be finalized as a standard.

Though regular CAT 6 cabling will only support 10GBASE-T out to 55 meters, it's a distance that should work for most datacenters. Booth cited Ethernet Alliance research that shows 55m cable length will cover 70 percent of most datacenters.

Another new key Ethernet technology that the alliance is talking about is the PoE Plus standard. PoE, or power over Ethernet, provides low levels of power over a regular Ethernet connection. PoE Plus aims to provide more power, with the goal being to power a thin client or even a notebook over Ethernet.

"There are all kinds of applications where people would like to do their power with Ethernet without having to add another external power source," Booth said.

It is more usage pressures than competition that is driving Ethernet forward at this point. Booth noted that ATM is not competitive with Ethernet at this point, and SONET is used in the core network infrastructure. But those implementations are morphing into Ethernet-focused deployment.

Infiniband isn't a concern for Booth, either.

"Infiniband is used in clustering, but it has much smaller vendor support than Ethernet technology where we have so many vendors that can work on the technology," Booth said.

Ethernet vendors will be working on the 100GbE standard and continuing to improve both the data and energy efficiency of Ethernet.

Booth agreed that it's not a good idea to bet against Ethernet.

"It's an IP-based world now; everything is going that way," Booth said. "The one technology that has existed for so long carrying IP has been Ethernet. It's very hard to compete against that and that's what a lot of companies realize."