Ethernet Getting Certified and Getting Faster

LAS VEGAS — Ethernet is one of the most pervasive technologies on Earth connecting desktops, servers and even cities together to the Internet. Yet though Ethernet is nearly everywhere, vendors have simply done their
best to comply with the published standards and to date there has not been
an official certification process for Ethernet networking equipment.

As new Ethernet standards for 40 Gigabit (40GbE) and 100 Gigabit Ethernet
(100GbE) approach, the Ethernet Alliance is ramping up to certify Ethernet for
the next generation of equipment.

The Ethernet Alliance is at Interop this week, demonstrating the latest in
Ethernet gear and standards. The new standards and efforts to certify those
standards could help to speed adoption of the new technology when it is

“Certification is a good way to set a level bar to make sure the
equipment will all be plug and play,” Brad Booth, president of the Ethernet
Alliance told

The Ethernet Alliance itself is not a standards body, but brings together
Ethernet vendors prior to standards development and after they are developed
for adoption and advocacy. Booth noted that Ethernet standards all come from
the IEEE. That said IEEE does not do performance testing for standards
compliance and interoperability as part of its mandate, according to Booth.

The new certification effort will be for upcoming 40GbE and 100GbE gear
and will not apply to older 1GbE and 10GbE equipment.

“Ethernet equipment in the past has never had a certification program,”
Booth said.

Instead, what has happened in the past, according to Booth, is vendors took
their gear to testing labs to ensure that their equipment complied with a
given specification. In Booth’s view, the problem with that approach is that
the testing labs do not have a mandate to broadly certify equipment for the
entire Ethernet industry.

Additionally Booth noted that vendors did not always publicly share the
results of their own interoperability testing. Ethernet with the new 40GbE
and 100GbE speeds is moving into areas where it previously was not as
widely used and Booth sees a real need to be open to gain new users trust in
Ethernet gear.

“We should make it easier for customers to know what will work,” Booth

Costs for Ethernet certification have not been finalized by the Ethernet
Alliance at this point.

Energy Efficient Ethernet

In addition to the 40 and 100GbE Ethernet standards, work is also
progressing the Energy Efficient

Booth expects that the standard will be close to final by late 2010. The
general idea with Energy Efficient Ethernet is to enable better power
utilization and control of Ethernet.

Enabling power efficient Ethernet is no easy task according Booth. “Ethernet was not originally designed to turn off the power,” he said. “So to suddenly go in and change Ethernet so it can stop sending data and not draw any power but can wake up on demand is very different than the typical Ethernet style where the link is always active. To go and change that is a bit of impact on how you manage Ethernet networks too.”

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