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Archive for the ‘Switching’ Category

January 9th, 2017

Ethernet Darwinism: The survival of the fittest (or the fastest)

By Michael Zimmerman, Vice President and General Manager, CSIBU

The most notable metric of Ethernet technology is the raw speed of communications. Ethernet has taken off in a meaningful way with 10BASE-T, which was used ubiquitously across many segments. With the introduction of 100BASE-T, the massive 10BASE-T installed base was replaced, showing a clear Darwinism effect of the fittest (fastest) displacing the prior and older generation. However, when 1000BASE-T (GbE – Gigabit Ethernet) was introduced, contrary to industry experts’ predictions, it did not fully displace 100BASE-T, and the two speeds have co-existed for a long time (more than 10 years). In fact, 100BASE-T is still being deployed in many applications. The introduction — and slow ramp — of 10GBASE-T has not impacted the growth of GbE, and it is only recently that GbE ports began consistently growing year over year. This trend signaled a new evolution paradigm of Ethernet: the new doesn’t replace the old, and the co-existence of multi variants is the general rule. The introduction of 40GbE and 25GbE augmented the wide diversity of Ethernet speeds, and although 25GbE was rumored to displace 40GbE, it is expected that 40GbE ports will still be deployed over the next 10 years1.

Ethernet-Diversity

Hence, a new market reality evolved: there is less of a cannibalizing effect (i.e. newer speed cannibalizing the old), and more co-existence of multiple variants. This new diversity will require a set of solutions which allow effective support for multiple speed interconnect. Two critical capabilities will be needed:

  1. Ability to economically scale-down to a few ports2
  2. Support of multiple Ethernet speeds

Marvell launched a new set of Ethernet interconnect solutions that meet this evolution pattern. The first products in the family are the Prestera® 98DX83xx 320G interconnect switch, and the Alaska® 88X5113 25G/40G Gearbox PHY. The 98DX83xx switch fans-out up to 32-ports of 10GbE or 8-ports of 40GbE, in economical 24x20mm package, with power of less than 0.5Watt/10G port.

Interconnect1

The 88X5113 Gearbox converts a single port of 40GbE to 25GbE. The combination of the two devices creates unique connectivity configurations for a myriad of Ethernet speeds, and most importantly enables scale down to a few ports. While data center- scale 25GbE switches have been widely available for 64-ports, 128-ports (and beyond), a new underserved market segment evolved for a lower port count of 25GbE and 40GbE. Marvell has addressed this space with the new interconnect solution, allowing customers to configure any number of ports to different speeds, while keeping the power envelope to sub-20Watt, and a fraction of the  hardware/thermal footprint of comparable data center solutions. The optimal solution to serve low port count connectivity of 10GbE, 25GbE, and 40GbE is now well addressed by Marvell. Samples and development boards with SDK are ready, with the option of a complete package of application software.

Interconnect2

  1. In the mega data center market, there is cannibalization effect of former Ethernet speeds, and mass migration to higher speeds. However, in the broader market which includes private data centers, enterprise, carriers, multiple Ethernet speeds co-exist in many use cases.
  2. Ethernet switches with high port density of 10GbE and 25GbE are generally available. However, these solutions do not scale down well to sub-24 ports, where there is pent-up demand for devices as proposed here by Marvell.