Low-cost, high-speed 10-Gigabit Ethernet technology capable of sustaining networked applications, such as VPNs, IP telephony, LAN services and e-commerce, is the wave of the future, according to a number of users, analysts and standards body representatives.
The high-speed Ethernet technology has been going through some growing pains, but there were signs at last week's NetWorld+Interop 2000 that it is on track to become a cost-effective backbone network offering.
For example, at a session on 10-Gigabit Ethernet standards, Jonathan Thatcher, chair of the 802.3ae 10-Gigabit Ethernet standards group, discussed a recent stir in the end-user community. Some proposals in the 802.3ae standard would have excluded the use of low-cost fiber-optic components for multimode fiber, leaving only expensive options.
"Our initial set of objectives was screwed up," Thatcher says. The support for multimode fiber has since been added back to the standard draft, which would allow 10-Gigabit Ethernet to run on the kind of fiber installed in most corporate networks.
With standards controversies out of the way, members of the 10-Gigabit Ethernet Alliance discussed the future of the technology, outlining some details of the LAN physical layer (PHY) specifications in 802.3ae.
Bob Grow, vice president of the 10-Gigabit Ethernet Alliance, says the LAN PHY will also support Remote Monitoring and SNMP protocols, as well as link aggregation. This will help service providers better manage the 10-Gigabit Ethernet pipes they sell access to and help enterprise users manage the 10-Gigabit backbones they deploy.
Run over long distances
Additionally, the proposed LAN PHY will be able to run LAN traffic over long distances when wave division multiplexing technology is used in WAN equipment, Grow says.
"You can essentially have the LAN PHY running across the country if you choose to do so," he says.
Extending Ethernet to the WAN will let users have a common technology running across private and public networks, he adds.
Some analysts say 10-Gigabit Ethernet products will probably not ship by year-end because users are not yet requiring that level of bandwidth.
Kamran Sistanizadeh, chief technology officer of Gigabit Ethernet service provider Yipes Communications Inc., disagrees.
"I used to think years ago that there would be ATM to the desktop, but Fast Ethernet got rid of that idea," Sistanizadeh said during a user/analyst question-and-answer session on 10-Gigabit Ethernet at Interop.
"The same thing will happen with Gigabit Ethernet" in backbones and service provider networks as 10-Gigabit becomes more accepted and is taken advantage of, he adds.
"There is definitely a need today for 10-Gigabit Ethernet," he adds. "We actually have customers asking for capacities that call for that kind of speed."
Shawn Jackman, chief technology officer of InternNetwork, agrees with Sistanizadeh. His company in Palo Alto matches college students with companies that require short-term staff.
"Right now 10-Gigabit seems like a lot, but I'm sure it wouldn't take us too long to find uses for it," Jackman says. That amount of bandwidth would also allow service providers to be flexible with the variations of their data service pipes, he adds.
"If you have a provider with a 10-Gigabit backbone, you could pay them for the bandwidth you need in chunks when you need it; that would be very important to us," he says.