Tech Guide: Ethernet's Latest Twist: 10 Gbits - InformationWeek

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Tech Guide: Ethernet's Latest Twist: 10 Gbits

No one has yet proposed a working group to explore a faster protocol

Tech GuideEthernet continues to expand into new arenas. At an event celebrating the 30th anniversary of Ethernet earlier this year, co-inventor Bob Metcalfe boldly predicted that Ethernet will unseat challengers in the storage-area-network market, displace Sonet in long-haul networks, and eventually become the technology of choice for cellular telephone calls.

Meanwhile, trailing-edge 10Base-T is spreading into emerging technologies such as networks of tiny sensors. And the 802 committee at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has standardized power over Ethernet, which lets you get power from your Ethernet connection (it requires cables). At present, you can't actually power your notebook via the Ethernet cable, but you can recharge the battery, as well as a variety of other devices.

On the speed side, plenty of folks in the business talk about 40-Gbit Ethernet or even 100-Gbit Ethernet as though these were well along in development. In fact, "40 is just a number people throw around," says Bob Grow, a principal architect at Intel who serves as chair of the 802.3 committee. "There is no work going on [in IEEE committees] at any speed higher than 10 Gbps."

Grow says that no one has even proposed a working group to explore a faster protocol. As a side note, this all but guarantees that bandwidth increases will happen more slowly. The last couple of jumps took about four years each, and the 10-Gbit standard was made final in 2002. That's when work on the next step should have started to complete a standard by 2006, Grow says.

But stay tuned. "100-Gbit is inevitable," Grow says. "Don't ask me how we're going to do it. But I remember in the early 1980s thinking how in the world were we going to get a megabit down twisted pair cable. Now we're going to 10 Gbits."

Return to main story, TechGuide: Every Little Gigabit Helps

Illustration by Doug Ross

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