Saturday, March 7, 2015

Blueprint -- New Directions For Ethernet: Slower Speeds

by David Fair, Board of Directors, Ethernet Alliance; Unified Networking Marketing Manager, Intel Corporation

Odd title for a networking article, don’t you think?  It’s odd for a couple of reasons, but reasons that reveal the vibrancy of Ethernet.  First, this is a forty-year old technology if you mark its birth from Bob Metcalf’s famous napkin sketch:

What’s remarkable is that this technology even has “new directions” after four decades!  But in fact, arguably, today is the most dynamic period in Ethernet’s history gauged by the number of major new specifications under discussion and development.  The longevity of Ethernet is unprecedented in the tech industry.  The IEEE has completed specs for both 40GbE and 100GbE, the former now in production and the latter shipping today for service provider carriers and sampling for data centers.

And the IEEE is working on a 400GbE specification.  The IEEE also recently added the P802.3by 25Gb/s Ethernet Task Force.  Specific to Ethernet over twisted pairs terminated in the ubiquitous RJ-45 jack, the IEEE has initiated study groups for 25GBASE-T and something called “Next Generation Enterprise Access” BASE-T.  It’s the later I want to talk about.

For four decades, Ethernet advanced on a “powers-of-ten” model from an initial 10 Mbps to 100 to 1GbE to 10GbE.  Part of why that worked was that the ratified IEEE Ethernet speeds kept well ahead of most market requirements.  Bob Metcalf himself started this trend by defining the first Ethernet speed of 2.94 Mbps in 1973, (a rate derived from the Xerox Alto system clock - overkill in 1973 except maybe for Xerox laser printers). To put that in perspective, 1973 was four years before the first Apple II computer became available and eight years before the launch of the first IBM PC.  The “DIX” group (Digital Equipment, Intel, and Xerox) increased the rate to 10Mbps in 1980 in their proposal to the IEEE, who stayed with that rate in the first IEEE Ethernet standard (1983).  But moving an entire Ethernet ecosystem to a new speed is expensive for everyone.  The “powers-of-ten” model helped control those costs.

What changed?  Well, my theory is that Ethernet simply got too successful for the powers-of-ten model.  By that I mean that the volumes got large enough for some specific requirements at more fine-grained speeds to warrant infrastructure upgrades to support those speeds.  And the volumes are large.  My company, Intel, for example, just celebrated shipping our one-billionth Ethernet controller.  We’ve been at it for over three decades, but that’s a lot of Ethernet!  And it continues to grow fast.
Next Generation Enterprise Access BASE-T is a case in point.  The “powers-of-ten” answer to 1GbE 1000BASE-T was naturally 10GBASE-T.  10GBASE-T is now the fastest growing segment of the 10GbE market because it will support up to 100m over low-cost CAT 6A cable and is backward compatible with 1000BASE-T.

But the road to today’s successful 10GBASE-T had a few bumps in it.  Today’s 10GBASE-T PHY is essentially a very sophisticated Digital Signal Processor because that’s what was required to deliver 100m over twisted pair.  And most important for this story is that 10GBASE-T requires CAT 6A cable at a minimum for reliable operation for up to 100m.

The requirement for CAT 6A cable is not a problem for most data centers for two reasons.  First, many existing data centers “future proofed” themselves by installing cable of that quality in their last major upgrade anyway.  And second, twisted pair is inexpensive to purchase and relatively inexpensive to install in an open data center.

It is the rapid growth of wireless access points and increases in their speed specifically that creates the problem leading to a desire Next Generation Enterprise Access BASE-T.   Not in the data center but rather in the office.  Most have built out a wireless infrastructure with CAT 5e or 6 in the ceilings connecting wireless access points at 1GbE, in addition to connecting wired desktops and workstations.  But the latest wireless spec, IEEE 802.11ac can drive bandwidth back on the wire well beyond 1GbE.  And some of those desktops and workstations may be chomping at the bit as well, so to speak, to go faster than 1GbE.

Houston, we have a problem.  And the problem is that ripping and replacing that CAT 5e or 6 cabling in an office environment can be stunningly expensive.  Not for the wire itself but for the installation costs.  So the goal for Next Generation Enterprise Access is to come up with a solution “between” the existing IEEE powers-of-ten solutions.  “Between” in that it has to work on existing CAT 5e or 6 cabling.  And it has to deliver significantly more than 1GbE.  It might try to go to 10GbE if it can, but we know that won’t work on CAT 5e or 6 in general.  If the technology can step down from 10 GbE to one or more intermediate rates it still solves the problem of delivering substantially more than 1GbE on existing cable plant.  And the people interested in Next Generation Enterprise Access firmly believe, based on deployed cable data, that the market size for just this one usage model makes a new spec economically viable.

As often happens in these situations, alliances establish themselves to build momentum to influence the IEEE to consider their proposal.  In this case, there are now two such groups calling themselves the “NBASE-T Alliance” and the “MGBASE-T Alliance” respectively.  Both are proposing intermediate “step-down” speeds of 2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps, but their proposals differ technically.  The way IEEE 803 speed specifications work is that they define the characteristics of a particular rate and the auto-negotiation processes for recognizing that two communicating devices both support that rate.  So in theory, vendors could develop adapters and switches that support just these rates or even just one of them.  However, the first pre-specification device to reach market supporting these rates also supports 10GBASE-T.  Whether other vendors follow that path is yet to be seen.

Here’s where the Ethernet Alliance brings value to the specification development process by helping to define common market requirements that help the parties come to a common spec in the IEEE.  The Ethernet Alliance believes strongly that the market is best served when “Betamax/VHS” debates are resolved to a common, interoperable solution.  The IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group, after its Call for Interest (CFI) process, established the Next Generation Enterprise Access BASE-T Study Group.  The Ethernet Alliance is advocating that the IEEE 802.3 develop a common specification to successfully address this emerging market requirement.  As Ethernet just continues to grow and become ever more pervasive in new applications, expect to learn of new advanced variants of this venerable technology.  Usually faster, but sometimes slower.

About the Author

David Fair serves on the board of directors of the Ethernet Alliance.  At Intel, David is responsible for driving demand for Intel’s storage over Ethernet (NAS, iSCSI, & FCoE) and RDMA over Ethernet (iWARP) technologies.  He also serves on the board of directors for the Ethernet Storage Forum of SNIA.

About the Ethernet Alliance

The Ethernet Alliance is a global consortium that includes system and component vendors, industry experts, and university and government professionals who are committed to the continued success and expansion of Ethernet technology. The Ethernet Alliance takes Ethernet standards to market by supporting activities that span from incubation of new Ethernet technologies to interoperability demonstrations and education.

Got an idea for a Blueprint column?  We welcome your ideas on next gen network architecture.
See our guidelines.

Vertical Systems: Global Provider Ethernet LEADERBOARD

Orange Business (France), BT Global Services (U.K.), Verizon (U.S.), Colt (U.K.), AT&T (U.S.), Level 3 (U.S.) and NTT (Japan) top the list ofr Vertical Systems Group’s 2014 Global Provider Ethernet LEADERBOARD. Global Providers ranked on the LEADERBOARD each hold a four percent (4%) or higher share of billable retail Ethernet ports at sites outside of their respective home countries.

Other Global Providers offering Ethernet services have shares that are below the LEADERBOARD threshold. The Challenge Tier includes companies with share between 2% and 4% share of this defined market. Seven companies qualify for the year-end 2014 Challenge Tier (Note – in alphabetical order): Cogent (U.S.), Global Cloud Xchange [formerly Reliance Globalcom] (India), SingTel (Singapore), T-Systems (Germany), Tata Communications (India), Telefonica Worldwide (Spain) and Vodafone (U.K.).

“Global providers increased their ‘out of home market’ Ethernet port deployments by 15% in 2014 as enterprises expanded their multinational networks to new locations and upgraded legacy sites with higher speed Ethernet access,” said Rick Malone, principal at Vertical Systems Group. “Large enterprises cite service reach and fiber footprint coverage as the top criteria for their global Ethernet purchase decisions.”

The Market Player tier includes all Global Providers with port share below 2%. Companies in the year-end 2014 Market Player tier are as follows (Note – in alphabetical order): Bell Canada (Canada), Bezeq (Israel), CAT Telecom (Thailand), CenturyLink (U.S.), China Telecom (China), China Unicom (China), Chunghwa Telecom (Taiwan), Easynet Global Services (U.K.), Eircom (Ireland), Embratel (Brazil), euNetworks (U.K.), Exponential-e (U.K.), Globe (Philippines), GlobeNet (Brazil), GTT (U.S.), Hutchinson Global (Hong Kong), Indosat (Indonesia), Interoute (U.K.), KDDI (Japan), Korea Telecom (Korea), KPN International (Netherlands), Masergy (U.S.), PCCW Global (Hong Kong), PLDT (Philippines), Rogers (Canada), Rostelecom (Russia), Softbank Telecom (Japan), Sparkle (Italy), StarHub (Singapore), Swisscom (Switzerland), Symphony (Thailand), TDC (Denmark), Telecom Italia (Italy), Telecom New Zealand (New Zealand), Telekom Malaysia (Malaysia), Telenor (Norway), TeliaSonera (Sweden), Telin (Indonesia), TelkomSouth Africa (South Africa), TelMex (Mexico), Telstra (Australia), Vector (New Zealand), Virgin Media Business (U.K.), XO (U.S.), Zayo Group (U.S.), and other providers selling Ethernet services outside their home country.

Coriant Intros Pico Packet Optical Transport Platform

Coriant introduced a compact packet optical transport platform optimized for service enablement at the edge of metro networks, including Data Center Interconnect (DCI), flexible business services, mobile backhaul, and SONET/SDH network migration.

The Coriant 7100 Pico Packet Optical Transport Platform, which extends the reach of the Coriant 7100 product family, was designed using the same layer-agnostic switching philosophy. Coriant says its 7100 Pico’s high-density and low-power 2-rack-unit (2RU) design includes an innovative distributed processing architecture that distributes system processing across service modules, significantly reducing upfront costs and improving system reliability. The 7100 Pico also supports both AC and DC power options and the latest service modules from the 7100 product family, providing a cost-efficient foundation for high-value metro edge services.

The 7100 Pico supports all of the latest service modules from the 7100 product family, including the ultra-high density 10G and 100G transponders and muxponders; the Optical Transport Network (OTN) Add/Drop Multiplexer (ADM) on-a-blade; and the high-density, feature-rich packet switching module. Flexible service interface options ensure easy and cost-effective scalability from 1G to 10G to 100G. It can be deployed as a standalone network solution or seamlessly extend service-enabling capabilities to existing networks comprised of the 7100 Nano, 7100 OTS, Coriant mTera Universal Transport Platform, or Coriant hiT 7300 Multi-Haul Transport Platform.

The 7100 Pico can also be deployed as a complementary aggregation device for the Coriant 7090 Packet Transport Platform and the Coriant 8600 Smart Router Series.

“With the continued growth in cloud computing, video-on-demand, and mobile broadband, network operators are facing a dramatic increase in bandwidth demand and highly unpredictable traffic patterns at the network edge,” said Ken Craft, Executive Vice President, Products and Technology, Coriant. “By extending proven packet optical transport flexibility and efficiency to the metro edge, the 7100 Pico helps our customers cost-effectively aggregate and transport diverse traffic and protocols, seamlessly scale to 100G, and dynamically adapt to next-generation service requirements.”

NTT DOCOMO Base Stations Avoid On-Peak Electricity Consumption

NTT DOCOMO is testing a base station with dual power-source control technology that uses more than 95% reduced-impact (solar and off-peak) electricity.

The idea is to avoid the use of on-peak electricity as much as possible. The proto type base station leverages lithium-ion batteries to store excess solar electricity generated during the daytime and off-peak electricity generated during the nighttime. Stored electricity is used as the primary source between dusk—once solar-electricity generation becomes unavailable—and 11pm, when off-peak electricity becomes available.

Bright House Launches 300/15 Broadband Service in Florida

Bright House Networks, a cable operator serving approx. 2.5 million customers in five states, launched a new 300 Mbps broadband service throughout its full Florida service area. Download speeds are up to 300 Mbps and upload speeds are up to 15 Mbps.

"We continually look for ways to provide the best available choices to our customers. Just a few months ago, we increased our maximum bandwidth offering to 150 Mbps, and now we are making available an additional product at 300 Mbps," said Kevin Hyman, executive vice president, Cable Operations, Bright House Networks. "We've opted to make this product available to our entire Florida footprint meaning millions of Floridians will have this choice available to them."

ViaSat Acquires EAI Design for Secure ASIC/FPGA Designs

ViaSat Inc. has the product and technology portfolio of EAI Design Services LLC. in order to expand its capabilities in high-speed, low-power secure space-based ASIC and FPGA microprocessor design.  Financial terms were not disclosed.

EAI Design developed a family of IP cores and stand-alone encryption products for high-speed networking to 100 Gbps that extend boundary protection for data centers and corporate wide area networks. These technologies are implemented in very small, low-power ASICs as well as cost-effective space hardened-by-design ASICs and FPGAs. The staff of EAI Design has joined ViaSat, with founder Emil Isaakian leading the immediate integration of the technologies into ViaSat products, systems, and services.

ViaSat is seeking to deploy 100 Gbps and higher-speed, space-based trusted platforms, particularly for commercial applications.

"In the past couple of years, we've been expanding our cybersecurity portfolio to use the latest networking and cyber sensing technologies, and to support the increasing demand for more bandwidth," said Jerry Goodwin, VP of Secure Network Systems at ViaSat. "We've also been working closely with electric utilities to develop large-scale, distributed cyber sensing architectures to secure the electrical grid and other machine-to-machine projects. These low-power, high-performance security technologies will help us protect data and networks in the evolving internet of everything."

  • In  July 2014, ViaSat acquired a high-rate modem product line and custom spacecraft technologies for earth observation from Gray Labs Inc., a private company based in Georgia. Applications include high-speed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) data communications. Financial terms were not disclosed. ViaSat plans to continue to support Gray Labs products and customers with state-of-the-art design from its Duluth, Georgia campus. The former staff of Gray Labs has relocated to ViaSat facilities, and Dr. Jim Gray, former Gray Labs president, has assumed a senior consulting position at ViaSat where he will help expand the capabilities of satellite-to-earth communications for ISR.

Advanced Photonix and Luna Innovations Merger on Track for May

Advanced Photonix and Luna Innovations Incorporated now expect to complete their previously announced merger in May 2015, following regulatory filings and approvals of their respective boards of directors.

Advanced Photonix is a leading supplier of optoelectronic sensors, devices and instruments used by Test and Measurement, Process Control, Medical, Telecommunication and Defense markets. API has three product lines: High-Speed Optical Receiver (HSOR) products are used by the telecommunication market in both telecommunication equipment and in test and measurement equipment utilized in the manufacturing of telecommunication equipment. Optosolutions focuses on enabling manufacturers to measure physical properties, including temperature, particular counting, color, and fluorescence for Medical and Process Control applications. The Terahertz sensor product line is targeted at the industrial Process Control and quality control markets through nondestructive testing and can measure subsurface physical properties.

Luna Innovations is a research company based in Virginia that specializes in areas such as fiber optic testing, fiber optic shape sensing and strain an temperature sensing.

Ooreoo Crosses 100 Million Customer Milestone

Ooredoo has crossed the 100 million mobile customer milestone across its footprint in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia.

Ooredoo operates in markets with an addressable population of more than 700 million people, and sees strong potential for growth across its footprint.

Its newest market, Myanmar, has a population of around 53 million people and a relatively low mobile penetration rate of 27 percent, according to the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology. Within its first month of commercial operations in 2014, Ooredoo reached more than one million customers in the country.