Ethernet is headed many new directions at once, says the man who heads a 400GE task group and leads a trade group behind the technology.
The celebration of the 40th anniversary of the invention of Ethernet and its 30th year as an IEEE standard has created a moment for a period of reflection about both where Ethernet has been and where it's going. A multitude of industry standards bodies, alliances, and organizations are discussing myriad directions for Ethernet.
I recently heard one wag say there are projects in the IEEE 802.3 Working Group alone that are defining Ethernet to run everything from DC to 400 Gbit/s. I've also joked about how fast Ethernet goes. Will Vehicular Ethernet, for example, run at 400 Gbit/s or 55 miles per hour?
This whole train of thought raises an interesting question: What is Ethernet anyway? Given the multiple industry hats I wear and the individuals I know, I always love when this discussion comes up.
Is Ethernet a frame? Is it a group of physical layer specifications? Is it a service? No one owns the Ethernet brand, and many try to leverage it with the naming of their specific technologies. From my perspective, I believe Ethernet is all of these things, interoperating in an ecosystem with other symbiotic technologies.
In the end, what Ethernet will become requires consensus building, and that means communication. It's ironic that one of the biggest challenges the industry faces when it tries to discuss the future of the Internet is communicating between the various stakeholders.
That translates into meetings, meetings, and more meetings. In a world where multiple industries ultimately participate, each with its own unique terminology and dreaded three-letter acronyms (aarrgghh!), there is an inherent necessity for multiple forums to enable exchanges between these various silos in order to develop industry consensus.
Speaking of meetings, I am excited by the recent announcement by the Ethernet Alliance regarding its next Technology Exploration Forum. Bob Metcalfe, the father of Ethernet, will give the keynote speech and will lead a panel session tackling Ethernet's future. Also, recently announced, Nan Chan, president of the Metro Ethernet Forum, will deliver a presentation that looks at Ethernet services and their role in the future of Ethernet.
As I am talking with other industry organizations and luminaries, look for future announcements regarding participation in The Future of Ethernet – Technology Exploration Forum.
The Forum will be another great opportunity for the industry to explore how it can continue to expand and scale to meet the various demands placed upon it. I look forward to seeing you there, where we'll come together to discuss the future of Ethernet.
Given the breadth of Ethernet's presence, the topic of feeds'n'speeds could take on a number of different aspects. From its roots in the enterprise to its growing presence in access, datacenter, and metro networks, there are a multitude of technologies being developed. While the success of Ethernet in any of these applications is not guaranteed, there is an old saying: "Don't bet against Ethernet!"
— John D'Ambrosia is acting chair of the 802.3 IEEE 400 Gigabit Ethernet Study Group, chairman of the Ethernet Alliance, and an Ethernet evangelist and distinguished engineer at Dell.