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Time to Get Ready for 100G bps Ethernet?

Faster speeds are an ongoing desire among small and medium businesses. While many companies are now settling in with 10G bps backbone Ethernet links, the movement to 100G bps Ethernet has begun to take shape.

Faster speeds are an ongoing desire among small and medium businesses. While many companies are now settling in with 10G bps backbone Ethernet links, the movement to 100G bps Ethernet has begun to take shape.Like other standards initiatives, the drive to higher speed Ethernet hit a roadblock. Initially, vendors were divided about whether to make a four-fold or a ten-fold increase in speed. That issue percolated during the last few years before the IEEE decided to have a single standard, dubbed 802.3ba, that covered both 40G and 100G speeds, marking the first time that an Ethernet standards group agreed to create one standard for two different speeds. While 40G Ethernet products have been demonstrated for a couple of years, vendors are now starting to move 100G devices out of their development labs. This week, XO, a carrier, plans to send 100G Ethernet signals from the NXTComm08 convention floor in Las Vegas over its long-haul network to Los Angeles. To conduct this test, XO will rely on Infinera's network equipment and testing-equipment from Ixia.

While work on the higher speed IEEE standard is still evolving, carriers are getting ready to add 100G Ethernet capabilities to their networks. Verizon Business plans to deploy 100G network capabilities over all its major routes within the U.S. during the first quarter of 2009. Customers in cities, such as New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago, will be able to take advantage of the higher speed services. In addition, Level 3 has been building 100G Ethernet lines for the Internet2, a high-speed academic network.

The evolution is good news for small and medium businesses. As carriers roll out higher speed network infrastructures, the pricing for business network services should drop and the bandwidth available should rise. Consequently, they will find it easier to cost justify deployment of complex applications, such as video and multimedia.

There are some limitations with the 100G Ethernet services. Initially, new high bandwidth services tend to be expensive. There are often blips as vendors try to get different devices to interoperate. Some of the services will emerge before the 802.3ba standard is finalized, a process that is expected to be completed in 2010. In sum, higher network speeds lurk on the horizon for those small and medium business that need them, but mainstream deployment is still a few years away.

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How fast are your backbone links? How much of a need do you have for 100G Ethernet? How much would you be willing to pay for such a service?

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