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Large data centres speed up adoption of 25GbE

07 Jul 2014  | Rick Merritt

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"The 50G Ethernet specification uses two serdes lanes and an associated PCS/MAC layer to implement in silicon," Sankar said. "From a silicon design standpoint, both the switch and NIC have to handle PCS functions such as virtual lane alignment, auto-negotiation and forward error correction," he added.

Mellanox suggested its products will use silicon photonics. Several vendors including Mellanox, Intel and Cisco have been working on silicon photonics for applications such as 25G links inside server racks, aiming to roll out products as early as this year.

"The [consortium's] spec does not dictate implementation specifics of silicon and cabling and interconnect design, however operating at these rates requires advanced processes and technologies such as silicon photonics for optical cabling," said Kevin Deierling, VP of marketing at Mellanox.

Arista co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim said nearly two years ago he sees silicon photonics as a key enabler for 100G switch systems. Other high-speed interconnects are too expensive, he said in earlier reports.

Overall, the consortium's spec "should be straightforward, they are simply using one or two lanes from 4x25G standards like CAUI-4 and 100GBASE-CR4," said Bob Wheeler, a senior analyst with market watcher The Linley Group.

"Mega data centre operators like Google and Microsoft represent a large enough market to make a de facto standard successful," Wheeler said. "The Ethernet Alliance should get on board by doing plugfests to ensure interoperability, which could spur adoption by a broader range of end customers," he added.

All sides seem to hope for a resolution in which the consortium's work can feed into a future IEEE 802.3 process. Businesses have traditionally demanded products use the group's standards. Big data centres, however, are clearly showing a willingness to move ahead of official standards to get an edge in performance or cost.

Consortium members said they will release chip and system products within 12-18 months.

"With ever-increasing server performance and with the uplinks from the leaf to the spine layer migrating to 100Gb/s in the near future, it makes sense to increase the access speed from 10 to 25 and 50Gb/s," said Anshul Sadana, SVP of customer engineering at Arista Networks.

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