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IEEE pushes 100Gb/s Ethernet on to copper

HardwareNews
, 26 Sep 2011News

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has announced the formation of a task force working on an amendment to the Ethernet standard which it hopes will lead to development and delivery of lower-cost higher-density 100Gb/s implementations.

The IEEE's P802.3bj Task Force, as the new group is known, will work on improving the Ethernet standard to include support for 100Gb/s speeds over backplane and short-reach copper cabling, meaning that future computer clusters will have a high-speed low-cost interconnection.

Members of the task force, which include engineers from the likes of server giants Dell and HP, have begun work on the high-speed standard already. The group's efforts will concentrate on four-lane 25Gb/s electrical signalling architectures with support for 100Gb/s Ethernet operation on backplanes of up to one metre and copper cable installations of up to five metres, along with compatibility with existing IEEE 802.3 installations.

It's an important step in the evolution of the Ethernet standard: Ethernet is a popular backplane technology, but its low speed compared to rival standards such as Infiniband - which already offers 25.8Gb/s speeds per lane in EDR mode - has led companies to look elsewhere in recent years.

"From the challenges of ever-increasing front-panel capacities to continuing advances in processors, high-performance computing, and server virtualisation technologies, the ability of systems to meet spiraling bandwidth demands remains challenging," task force chair and Dell Ethernet evangelist John D’Ambrosia claimed in a statement to press. "By expanding on the solid foundational standards work already completed, IEEE P802.3bj will provide better options for system designers to minimize or eliminate the bandwidth bottlenecks facing end-users."

The Ethernet standard already reaches speeds of 100Gb/s in current commercial implementations, but only through the use of optical signalling. A move to copper wiring will, it is hoped, mean cheaper systems and higher density implementations than have previously been possible.

Sadly, the short range of the standards modification proposed by the IEEE task force mean that it won't be coming to a home near you any time soon.

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