This year I have spoken about 100 Gigabit Ethernet and beyond at a number of technical conferences, both as a featured speaker and panelist. In my talks I have provided the respective audiences with an overview of the standard. However, during the Q&A sessions afterwards, the conversations eventually turn from the technology developed for IEEE Std. 802.3ba-2010 and look to the future.
What other technologies related to 40 GbE and 100 GbE will be developed? Will there be new form factors? When will 100 GbE cost less than 10 ports of 10 GbE? What applications will need 40GbE and 100GbE? Will the next speed be 400 GbE or Terabit Ethernet? When will it start?
All great questions, but the one question that really caught me off guard came at China Network World in early September in Beijing. The reporter didn’t ask me about technology, but instead asked what might be accomplished with the technology. In all honesty, I really hadn’t given it a lot of thought.
I had been spending a lot of time thinking about the technologies needed to create higher density/lower cost 100 GbE based systems. I had been spending a lot of time thinking about whether Google and Facebook would continue to be the poster companies for amazing bandwidth growth or whether new companies would emerge and exhibit even greater bandwidth requirements.
I pushed these thoughts aside to answer the question, and began to contemplate how the massive computing power created by network computing might be harnessed to find solutions to all of those problems plaguing mankind. But, when I looked at my iTouch, the very device I had talked to my son on the prior evening via the hotel internet and Skype, the answer took on a more personal side to me—it will help us to keep in touch with those we love, regardless of where we are.
So while we ponder the future of Ethernet, let’s not lose sight of how we will be able to employ it to make the future and the world a better place.