The End of the Ethernet Era?


Ethernet may dominate current data-networking environments, but that dominance will start to slip as the world moves into multi-gigabit regimes, according to a new study.


The report, "40 and 100 Gigabit Networks: Technologies, Markets and Applications," was released by Washington, D.C.,-based Freesky Research. The company claims that as LAN, SAN and MAN speeds surpass the sub-Gb level, the economic case for multi-protocol networks will be too great for any one scheme to take over.


At the heart of the theory is the expectation that the ability to combine low-cost interprocessor links in I/O and storage with their counterparts in LANs and the data center will outweigh current concerns over multiprotocol complexity. The report also notes that as link layer technologies move into 40 and 100 Gbps territory, they are sharing many of the same FPGA (field programmable gate array), SerDes (serializer/deserializer) and encoding technologies as Ethernet links, eroding the cost advantage that Ethernet currently enjoys.


David Gross, the study's author, puts it this way:

The defining economic characteristic of sub-gigabit networks was framing, while the defining economic characteristic of multi-gigabit networks is clocking. Therefore, in 40 and 100 Gigabit networks, Ethernet will frequently interconnect with Fibre Channel, Infiniband, even SONET, and will not be able to kill off those protocols the way it decimated Token Ring, FDDI, and ATM.

You can order the study at the group's Web site here.