25GbE almost done; but more new Ethernet options are coming



Looking forward to an Industry Connection discussion session at the September IEEE meeting


Back in 2012, LightCounting noted that the data center was never in such a state of change. That is truer now than ever and the change is snowballing with new dynamics at play. The Ethernet Alliance responded to this with a new Ethernet roadmap unveiled at OFC showing possible new rates at 50Gb/s, 200Gb/s, 800Gb/s and beyond.

As the 25GbE project races to a conclusion in the IEEE 802.3 Working Group, it’s time to find agreement on what to do next. Just over a year ago LightCounting reported on the considerable interest in a serial 40GbE project. It was, after all, only when the SFP+ module arrived with the serial 10Gb/s SFI interface did 10GbE optical really take off. But all that interest in doing a 40GbE serial standard was prior to the latest thinking about adding new Ethernet rates; 50GbE in particular. Much has changed.

Three dynamics are now happening in concert. They all revolve around 50Gb/s:

  1. Mega-datacenter builders such as Microsoft are looking to upgrade their 40GbE storage server connections to 50Gb/s
  2. The OIF is nearing completion of a suite of 50Gb/s electrical interfaces,
  3. The IEEE 400GbE Task Force has chosen 50Gb/s PAM4 as a primary interface on the electrical and optical side of 400GbE modules.

The mega-datacenter builders will get their ‘50GbE’ connections very soon via the efforts of two industry initiatives. They will start with dual 25G SFP28 ports on a NIC. But this won’t officially be 50GbE and it won’t be serial 50G so two unofficial 50GbE “flash mob” meetings were held to scope out a future IEEE project for 50GbE.

So if the IEEE moves to standardize 50GbE, why wouldn’t the project scope include a 4X variant for 200GbE? And why not also include 2x50G for lower cost 100GbE links? The issue is timing. A narrow scope project minimizes project timing while any added objectives will slow it down.

How might this all this turn out? The rest of this story is available as a research note to LightCounting subscribers. Please contact if you are interested in purchasing a subscription to our reports.

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