Ciena, Infinera Push 100-GigE

Recent announcements highlight the continued push for 40- and 100-Gbit/s transport

November 30, 2006

3 Min Read
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Companies itching to be identified with next-generation transport -- 40- and 100-Gbit/s stuff -- are stepping up their efforts in research circles, as reflected in recent announcements from Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) and Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN). (See Internet2, Ciena Team.)

In particular, the supercomputer community is interested in higher speeds, not just for the interconnection between computers, but as the link between sites.

That's one of the targets for Boston South Network (Bossnet), a long-reach optical network running between Boston and Washington, D.C.

"What they really see supercomputers interconnecting with is 100-Gbit/s Ethernet, so they want to put that on the transmission network," says Ciena's senior VP of strategic planning, Thomas Mock.

Bossnet is considering the move to 100-Gbit/s Ethernet, but, for now at least, the plan is to upgrade the network to 40 Gbit/s early in 2007, a step up from the 10-Gbit/s Ethernet it's using now. Ciena announced this week it's been chosen for that upgrade. (See Ciena Upgrades Bossnet.)That interim step is all down to experience, "because 40 Gbit/s is something we, and others, have done a lot of research on," Mock says.

Meanwhile, 100-Gbit/s Ethernet is inching towards reality. Recently, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.3 Higher Speed Study Group (HSSG) officially voted to make 100-Gbit/s Ethernet the subject of its standards work. (See 100-Gig Ethernet Gets Official Nod.)

Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) has put up a few papers on 100-Gbit/s transmission this year, though with work that's primarily at the optical layer and conducted at Bell Labs . (See Lucent Stretches 100-GigE.)

And earlier this month, in conjunction with the recent SC06 supercomputing conference, a group of vendors and carriers demonstrated 100-Gbit/s Ethernet traversing the live Level 3 Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: LVLT) network between Houston and Tampa, Fla. (See Group Demos Technology.)

Infinera is calling it the first real test of 100-Gbit/s Ethernet on a live network.Other folks involved with that demo include Finisar Corp. (Nasdaq: FNSR), Internet2 , and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

(Ironic that the banana slugs had a hand, so to speak, in a 100-Gbit/s Ethernet test.)

For the demo, the 100-Gbit/s signal was split into 10 lines of 10 Gbit/s each, the kind of division that's likely to represent 100-Gbit/s Ethernet's first incarnations. One motivation behind the demo was to show that 100-Gbit/s Ethernet is possible on the current 10-Gbit/s infrastructure, says Drew Perkins, Infinera's chief technology officer.

"We see it as being a big part of the future," says Perkins, adding that Infinera expects Sonet to be "displaced over time with an Ethernet-based transport network."

In terms of technology, the 10x10-Gbit/s configuration is missing one major piece -- "having a chip that sees all 100 Gbit/s," Perkins says. Commercially available media access controller (MAC) chips don't go higher than 40 Gbit/s. Or so it seemed. "Now it turns out the very latest FPGAs are, in fact, capable of [seeing all 100 Gbit/s]," he adds, noting that the group used Xilinx Inc. (Nasdaq: XLNX) chips for the demos.As for serial 100-Gbit/s Ethernet, Perkins isn't so sanguine. "We don't believe that is the most cost-effective approach," at least not within the next five years, he says.

Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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