Jeff Harris
Chief Marketing Officer

The Need for 400 Gigabit Ethernet Speed

August 16, 2017 by Jeff Harris

All of us follow the trends. We have to - faster processors, latest software, and most capable latest and greatest. Thank goodness the networking world does the same, because without it we wouldn't have streaming video on demand, access to our applications everywhere, and more access than anyone dreamed possible 30 years ago.

That networking world keeps up with the latest generation of Ethernet speeds too, and 400 Gigabit Ethernet (GE) will be here sooner than we think. Back in March, IEEE802.3bs-compliant Ethernet with traffic line rates up to 400Gb was demoed for the first time – so while 100GE is still being rolled out, the next generation of Ethernet speeds is already revving up. This means massively increased speeds, better economies of scale and denser configurations, leading to a more attractive price-per-port.

What’s more, 400GE also promises greater accuracy and faster deployments, as it includes Forward Error Correction (FEC), which helps to reduce power consumption and testing time.

But which industries are set to benefit the most from 400GE? I explored this issue recently in an article published on the leading networking portal Light Reading, exploring some of the sectors that have the biggest need for 400GE speed, and how network equipment manufacturers need to get ready to service them.

Here are the top three industries I expect will benefit the most:

  • Cloud service providers. The likes of Amazon, Microsoft and IBM are building enormous cloud-scale data centers, and 400GE offers the huge performance uplift they need – as well as unparalleled efficiency and density. These three companies have been identified as the biggest drivers of 400GE (Google, by contrast, seems to be focusing on 200GE), and as such they have a big influence on standards groups, helping to shape the protocols and frameworks that shape and govern Gigabit Ethernet.
  • Telecommunications providers. How many connected mobile devices do you own? Cisco reckons that by 2020, the average person will have 3.4 – so it’s easy to see why telecoms operators are already working out how to deal with unprecedented growth in traffic volumes. There are enormous sums of money to be saved by savvy telecommunications organizations embracing 400GE to make their architectures as dense and efficient as possible.
  • Distributed businesses and campuses. Those hyper-connected users are already placing hefty demands on the Wi-Fi networks at campus environments such as universities, airports and major enterprises, as traffic moves between cellular and Wi-Fi. In the battle to deal with ever-growing throughput needs, it’s easy to see why 400GE is a tempting proposition for these organizations’ IT teams.

And beyond these three huge industry sectors, there are the troves of organization that rely on high-bandwidth applications.  They also stand to benefit a great deal from this new, ultra-high-speed Ethernet. Consuming rich media, whether video, digital marketing or gaming, will become far quicker once 400GE is the defacto networking standard. 

Think about major brands offering prospective customers experiences like virtual stores, mix-and-match and ‘build-your-own’ tools as part of the online shopping experience. Or massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), with millions of users interacting in the same virtual world at the same time. Processes like these require hyperscale data centers, which would run far more efficiently on 400GE infrastructures.

All this means that network equipment manufacturers need to get their houses in order now, with testing that simulates real-world, high-speed Ethernet. They also need to be ready to leverage 400GE throughout the entire network stack: It will not matter if their Layer 2-3 infrastructure supports 400GE if Layer 1 does not.

The 400GE evolution is well and truly underway, and huge numbers of organizations are set to benefit. But for those benefits to be truly realized, the foundations of a well-prepared network equipment sector need to be in place – with comprehensive testing programs as their foundations.

Click here to read the article, and find out more about Ixia’s advanced 400GE testing solutions here.