Growth and reliance on networking are permeating every aspect of our world. The needs of local area, data center, access, and metropolitan area networks are constantly growing, and we're seeing a rapid expansion in the number and use of new bandwidth-hogging applications. As a result, bandwidth growth is increasing across numerous applications and markets.
As these bandwidth requirements press the limits across Ethernet networking, equipment manufacturers must stay ahead of the curve by introducing network devices capable of higher speeds. With future demands for more mobile, video, devices, and data, equipment manufacturers must move beyond today's 40 Gbit/s and 100 Gbit/s capabilities for network and data center providers.
According to the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment Ad hoc, industry bandwidth requirements are continuing to grow at an exponential pace. At such a rapid speed, networks will need to support terabit-per-second capacities by 2015 and 10 Tbit/s capacities by 2020.
How did we get here?
In May 2013, recognizing this growth and foreseeing the need for a new Ethernet speed rate, the IEEE 802.3 working group formed the IEEE 802.3 400 Gbit/s Ethernet (400 GbE) Study Group. When the working group last addressed the need for a new Ethernet speed rate, two rates were created: 40 GbE, which was intended to provide a medium path for servers, and 100 GbE, which was targeted at network aggregation applications.
In May 2014, the study group received the "Task Force" designation and met for the first time at the IEEE 802.3 May 2014 Interim Session. There, it began work on defining the 400 GbE standard for enabling high-bandwidth solutions for web-scale data centers, video distribution infrastructures, service providers, and new application areas. The newest standard will reach data-transfer speeds of 400 GbE, which is fast enough for 50,000 simultaneous high-definition Netflix video streams.
Just five years ago, 10 GbE was sufficient for most data, 40 GbE was the newcomer, and 400 GbE wasn't even on our radar. Based on Moore's Law, the industry expected 40 GbE to meet data center needs through 2014. Fast forward to today, and it looks like that prediction was right, but demand keeps growing.
The fact that 40 GbE has become commonplace, and 100 GbE is no longer considered cutting-edge, means the move toward 400 GbE has begun. At this stage, the standard for 400 GbE is just starting to be worked out. It will be a few years before we see wholesale approval and acceptance of 400 Gbit/s links, but this doesn't mean development is on hold. Equipment manufacturers need to begin thinking about creating this next-generation technology. The development of 400 GbE capabilities is clearly becoming a reality. To stay ahead of the curve, equipment manufacturers must anticipate demand and begin introducing and testing network devices capable of higher speeds.