The Ethernet Alliance, a global consortium dedicated to progressing Ethernet technologies (albeit, only the MAC frame format is left from the original 10BaseT Ethernet standard), this week exhibited a multivendor interoperability demonstration at the OFC 2023 conference and exhibition in San Diego, CA.
–>Please see References 1. and 2. below for the detailed multi-vendor interoperability demo diagrams.
Featuring 18 different participating member companies, the Ethernet Alliance interoperability demo spans diverse Ethernet technologies ranging from 10 Gigabit Ethernet to 800GbE. The interoperability display features a live network between the booths of Ethernet Alliance and the Optical Internetworking Forum, Exfo, Spirent Communications, and Viavi Solutions.
The network leverages single-mode optical fibers with high-speed traffic originating from an array of switches, routers, interconnects, including copper and optical cables. It also employs various interconnects using multiple pluggable form factors such as OSFP, QSFP-DD, QSFP, and SFP, and multiple interface types including OIF 400ZR, OpenZR+ MSA 400ZR+, and 800G-ETC-CR8.
The Ethernet Alliance also spent time highlighting its roadmap, which sees continued advancement in the speed, reliability, and use cases for the networking protocol across multiple sectors. The goal of the organization is not to invent new standards, but rather to help foster their adoption and deployment in an interoperable approach.
Source: Ethernet Alliance
“We’re now at the half-century mark, and Ethernet’s star continues to rise. As a profoundly resilient technology that’s getting progressively faster, it is an innovation engine that drives market diversification and fuels business growth. If you think about the journey from invention to deployment, what we do is we try to show that the technology does work and it is mature enough that it can be deployed,” said Peter Jones, chairman, Ethernet Alliance.
In the enterprise market, demand for 10 GbE-based Ethernet remains strong and there is also some growth for 25 GbE, which is intended more for servers. Ethernet also has 100 GbE and 400 GbE speeds to support larger enterprise and campus needs.
Network operators are always looking for more network capacity and speed and to that end 800 GbE and soon 1.6 Tb/s Ethernet (TbE) will fit the bill.
Jones said that in the early days, the goal for each new set of specifications was to provide 10-times the speed, at only three-times the price of the existing specification. Over time what has occurred is the standards have not just been racing forward to ever faster speeds, but rather are being tailored to meet the price and performance characteristics that a given use case requires.
For example, work is ongoing to help bring Ethernet into more industrial use cases as a solution for serial connections. Ethernet is also increasingly finding its way into automotive use cases as modern vehicles rely on growing levels of compute capacity to operate and communicate.
The Ethernet Alliance is also working on certification efforts for Power-over-Ethernet (PoE). While there have long been PoE standards, there hasn’t been a full-scale certification effort in the same way that there is for Wi-Fi in the wireless world. Jones said that while PoE mostly works today, there have been some instances of vendor technologies that weren’t interoperable.
“We really want people to be able to buy certified devices because we want to preserve the idea that Ethernet just works and we were starting to see that breaking down with PoE,” Jones said. “Ethernet is the most important technology that no one ever sees. Very few people that use the internet understand that Ethernet is the key part of it,” he added.
“One of OFC’s highlights was live interoperability demonstrations from leading optics companies running over OFCnet,” said OFC chairs Chris Cole, Coherent Corporation; Ramon Casellas, Centre Tecnològic de Telecomunicacions de Catalunya; and Ming-Jun Li, Corning Incorporated.