SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Bandwidth-hungry data centers need a fast-track effort this year to define 800 Gbit/second Ethernet links, said a networking veteran. The existing IEEE process is too slow to serve the needs of Web giants, said Andreas Bechtolshiem, chairman of Arista Networks and a serial entrepreneur.
Network bandwidth has long been the bottleneck for companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google, trying to connect thousands of servers to handle a flood of Web and mobile traffic. They are moving to 100GE connections this year and will start buying in volume as early as 2019 the 400G systems that are still in the lab today, he predicted.
At this pace, data centers won’t be able to wait for a formal IEEE process that could take three years to define 800GE, said Bechtolsheim. He called for serdes makers to forge a multi-source agreement this year on 112G interfaces using PAM-4 modulation as the basis for doubling the data rate of the IEEE 400G standard about to be formally ratified.
“We think the cloud industry needs faster networks and this is the best way to get there,” he said in a keynote at the Linley Cloud Hardware Conference here.
Bechtolshiem forecasts vendors will ship five million 100GE Ethernet ports this year and double those shipments in 2018. Hard on its heels, 400G shipments could rise to one million units in 2019 and four million the following year, he estimated.
An unexpected drop in 100G prices triggered the fast ramp, now generating shortages in optics given a fragmented market for different form factors of modules and types of fiber optic cables.
Analysts “assumed the wrong cost model” and predicted a “100G trickle” this year. “People assumed they had time to ramp…[but] the industry has never seen such a ramp with optics,” said Bechtolsheim, showing revised forecasts as well as his own estimates.
“The standards have fallen behind demand from the hyper-scalers,” said Bob Wheeler, a principal networking analyst at the Linley Group. “800G would be the next logical step, and I think people are not aware how fast it’s coming,” he said.
Next page: No formal calls heard yet at IEEE
100G Ethernet ports (green) will crossover 40G this year as the new speed ramps quickly, predicted Bectolsheim. (Images: Arista)