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The Need for 400GE

June 10, 2014 by Ixia Blog Team

Since ratification of the 100Gbps Ethernet standard, global network traffic and bandwidth demand continues to experience massive growth. When the IEEE 802.3 Working Group last addressed the need for a new Ethernet speed rate, two new rates were created — 40GE and 100GE. 40GE was intended to provide a medium path for servers, while 100GE was targeted at network aggregation applications.

Reliance on networking permeates every aspect of our world, and bandwidth requirements from local area, data center, access and metropolitan area networks are expanding at double-digit rates. As technologies such as cloud computing and streaming video necessitate larger and faster data centers, equipment manufacturers must evolve beyond from 100Gbps capabilities to keep pace.

While some of the market is still transitioning from 1GE to 10GE, 40GE is being deployed in data center networks, and 100GE is being deployed in network cores, service provider client connections, internet exchanges, etc.

According to the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment Ad hoc, industry bandwidth requirements are continuing at an exponential pace. At such a rapid speed, in fact, that networks will need to support terabit-per-second capacities in by 2015 – and 10-terabit-per-second capacities by 2020.[1]

Recognizing this industry need, the IEEE 802.3 formed the IEEE 802.3 400 Gbps Ethernet (400 GE) Study Group in May 2013. In May of 2014 it received the “Task Force” designation and met for the first time at the IEEE 802.3 May 2014 Interim Session. There, it began work on defining the 400GE standard for enabling high-bandwidth solutions for web-scale data centers, video distribution infrastructures, service providers and new applications areas. The newest standard is expected to reach data-transfer speeds of 400Gbps, which is fast enough for 50,000 simultaneous High Definition Netflix video streams.

Early drivers for 400GE include:

  • Bandwidth demand expanding at double-digits rates
  • Cloud providers continuing to require even larger data centers
  • Streaming video content driving bandwidth demands and the need for faster processors

The project is expected to define and support the following:

  • Support a MAC data rate of 400 Gbps
  • Support Bit Error Rate (BER) of better than or equal to 10-13 at MAC/PLS service interface
  • Support full-duplex operation only
  • Preserve the Ethernet frame format using the Ethernet MAC
  • Preserve minimum and maximum frame size of current Ethernet standard
  • Provide appropriate support for OTN
  • Support optional 400 Gb/s Attachment Unit Interfaces for chip-to-chip and chip-to-module applications
  • Provide physical layer specification which support link distances of:
    • At least 100m over MMF
    • At least 500m over SMF
    • At least 2km over SMF
    • At least 10km over SMF

At this stage, the standard is just starting to be worked out. It’ll be a couple of years before we see wholesale approval and acceptance – but this doesn’t mean that vendor development is on hold. Vendors are going to need to begin thinking about creating this next-generation of products, and Ixia is ready now with its 400GE JumpStart Test System. Building on the company’s market leadership with the first 40 and 100GE testing solutions, Ixia has successfully completed the industry’s first 400GE interoperability test with Ciena, a global provider of open, programmable networking platforms and software.

For more information on Ixia’s 400GE JumpStart Test System, see our press release.

Additional Resources:

Press Release: Ixia Introduces World’s First 400GE Test Platform

400GE JumpStart Test System


[1] http://www.ieee802.org/3/ad_hoc/bwa/BWA_Report.pdf