400-Gbit Ethernet effort kicks off in March
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400-Gbit Ethernet effort kicks off in March
OK, so I have used that famous “Top Gun” line before, but why shouldn't I. It is probably the best line that defines my industry efforts, especially now. I just made a request for an official Call For Interest (CFI) on 400-Gigabit Ethernet at the IEEE 802 Plenary in March. For those who care, it will be in Orlando, so come on down and make a vacation out of it. I am hopeful that I will have my Super Bowl moment: A successful CFI, followed by a trip to Disney World! Back in 2006, I ran into a lot of opposition starting a next higher speed effort. This time around, everyone seems to understand that we have to do it. I guess the Bandwidth Assessment we did demonstrated the degree of the problem in networking.There is also very little debate among those participating in the IEEE 802.3 Higher Speed Ethernet Consensus Ad Hoc that the next speed is 400 Gigabit. Still, I wonder if a “rate debate” will start here similar to ones I have seen on other blogs. Among the threads of that debate, some have said the next-rate debate began raging before the 40G/100G standard had even been ratified. The relatively underwhelming success of 40G (OC-768) in the carrier community had probably initially biased some against making another big increase in speed. However, analysts covering the data center market see 40GE making significant headway, and I would argue its attraction is its cost.Others say the industry should make the investment in a Terabit Ethernet standard. That's easy to say when it is someone else's money. Let's remember that everyone needs to make a return-on-investment to justify their participation. To take this argument to an extreme, why not target 10 Terabit Ethernet instead?This is not the Field of Dreams. Voices who whisper “build it and they will come” may be ignored. Simply put, Terabit Ethernet would take too long to develop, cost too much to buy and it would have a very small market. Ultimately, this work is about providing a higher capacity link at a lower cost per bit.If we wait a little longer, Terabit Ethernet will be feasible, some may argue. On the other hand, many people are concerned about getting caught with no new solutions to address the bandwidth tsunami we all know is coming. The development of a new rate takes time, first for the standards initiative, then for the industry ecosystem and solutions. As I listen to all these arguments, I think about the five criteria the IEEE 802 group uses--broad market potential, economic feasibility, technical feasibility, distinct identity, and compatibility. I say that, however, fully knowing that within a few years of ratifying a 400 Gigabit Ethernet standard, we will need to “get the band back together” to once again ratchet up the speed. I don't have much choice. My friends tease me that I am not allowed to retire until Terabit Ethernet--or beyond!--is a reality.
Intel Wins Ethernet Data Communication Patent Fight
In a complicated legal proceeding, the court sided with Intel and said that the company did not infringe on patents #5,361,261; #5,533,018; #5,566,169, and #5,594,734.The patents were originally assigned to National Semiconductor (NSC), but were given to Vertical Networks in 1998, and to N-Data in 2003. The patents were changed over time, and reissued, as Vertical increased the number of its claims from 77 to 378. As N-Data got a hold of the patents, the company sued Dell in 2006 over patent infringement and was able to reach a settlement in 2009. Intel intervened in the case and eventually filed a declaratory judgment that under the NSC Agreement, which Intel had signed in 1976, but which had expired in 2003. Intel said that itself and its customers are licensed to the National patents and all reissue patents owned by N-Data that are derived from any of the National Patents.According to the court papers, Intel's license expired in 2003, but Intel claimed that the original agreement with NSC naturally extends to reissue patents that derive from National Patents. N-Data said that the reissued patents are separate patents "that cover unique property rights" which would need a separate license. In the original ruling, the District Court granted a summary judgment to Intel "because the agreement reflects the intent of the parties to license not only the literally described patents and patent applications, but also the reissue progeny of those licensed patents and patent applications from which the reissues were derived." The Court of Appeals judge David Folsom agreed with this conclusion.
The money is moving up the stack, as always
The switching and server markets are loosely coupled, just like the machines themselves in the data center. When one goes up or down, the other tends to either lead or follow, depending on the technology transitions underway in both markets at any given time. The server market is in a bit of a slump, and the Ethernet switch market has followed suit.As El Reg previously reported, server shipments were essentially flat in the second quarter, according to the box counters at IDC, and revenues fell by 4 per cent year-on-year to $12.2bn.And, despite the transition to 10Gb Ethernet underway in data centers, Ethernet switch revenues at layers 2 and 3 of the network stack fell 4.4 per cent to $5.36bn. Some of that decline is competition, and some of it is penny pinching as some customers still think that 10GE server adapters and switches are too expensive compared to their gigabit Ethernet predecessors.But not everybody feels that way, particularly customers who are building shiny new private clouds where the cross-server traffic of virtualized workloads almost necessitates a move to faster switching between machines and a flatter layer 2 network at that.IDC reckons that sales of 10GE switches was up 10.7 per cent, pulling up the class average across all Ethernet switching, and that the aggregate ports shipped in the quarter rose by a very impressive 61.4 per cent to 3.5 million ports."The surprising decline in the Ethernet switch market after several quarters of positive growth is a result of several factors, but the highlight was that the slower growth in the 10GE core segment of the market could not completely offset the decline in the network edge/access segment," said Rohit Mehra, vice-president of network infrastructure at IDC, in a statement."10GE along with the emerging 40GE Ethernet switch segments are the ones to watch as growth in virtualized applications and converged infrastructure will continue to drive the need for advanced networks in datacenter build-outs."
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