November 7th, 2011
Just as 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) is going through widespread
deployment in the data center, the discussion has now shifted to even
higher speed interconnects—namely 40 GbE and 100 GbE
In July 2006, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Higher Speed Study Group was formed to look into the next evolutionary step after 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE). In the past, Ethernet speeds would increase by a factor of 10. However, the next generation jump from 10 GbE to 100 GbE has proven to be a technological challenge. Some within the IEEE group felt that 100 GbE made sense for communication service providers and other backbone network providers, but not as a next step for servers—it was simply more speed and expense than would be needed for the near future. While the IEEE initially planned to standardize only on 100 GbE as the next step after 10 GbE, server vendors initiated a push in early 2007 to include 40 GbE in the standard, with the rationale that the effort used to develop 40 GbE would be used for the development of 100 GbE.
In July 2007, the IEEE 802.3ba study group was named, and it is the first standard to include two different Ethernet speeds—the 40 Gbps rate for local server applications, and the 100 Gbps rate for internet backbone—to serve both market needs. In June 2010, the official 802.3ba standard was ratified, opening the field to higher performance in server systems and components, data centers, network storage and systems, high-performance computing (HPC) clusters, data centers, carriers, and the like. This paper provides perspective on the placement and use of 40 and 100GbE.