Microsoft, Google Help Create Ethernet Consortium for Clouds

Broadcom, Mellanox and Arista are other founders of the group that has developed a spec for 25GbE and 50GbE.

ethernet networking

A group of tech companies that include networking vendors (Arista Networks and Mellanox Technologies), cloud companies (Microsoft and Google) and a component maker (Broadcom) has created an industry consortium to drive the development of 25 Gigabit Ethernet and 50 Gigabit Ethernet in large-scale data centers.

The 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium, announced July 1, has released an initial specification for single-lane 25GbE and dual-lane 50GbE that it is making freely available to any data center technology vendors or end users that join the group.

According to officials with the founding companies, the rapid growth in the amount of data being created and moved over networks due to such trends as cloud computing, big data and mobility calls for networks that are faster than the 10GbE that is becoming increasingly common in today's data centers and the 40GbE that is beginning to see greater adoption.

A move to faster speeds will improve the performance of data center networks and help drive down overall operating and capital costs, officials with the companies said.

"With ever-increasing server performance and with the uplinks from the leaf to the spine layer migrating to 100 Gbps in the near future, it makes sense to increase the access speed from 10 Gbps to 25 and 50 Gbps," Anshul Sadana, senior vice president of customer engineering at Arista, said in a statement.

"The new Ethernet speeds proposed by the Consortium give superior flexibility in matching future workloads with network equipment and cabling, with the option to 'scale-as-you-go,'" Yousef Khalidi, distinguished engineer at Microsoft, said in a statement. "In essence, the specification published by the 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium maximizes the radix and bandwidth flexibility of the data center network while leveraging many of the same fundamental technologies and behaviors already defined by the IEEE 802.3 standard."

The move to 10GbE and 40GbE in data centers is driving an Ethernet switch market that has seen slow growth recently. IDC analysts in May said that Ethernet switch revenues worldwide hit $5.2 billion in the first quarter, a 0.4 percent increase over the same period in 2013. However, 10GbE switch revenues jumped 8.1 percent, while 40GbE now accounts for more than $250 million in revenue every quarter, the analysts said.

"10GbE and 40GbE switch ports for the data center and campus core remain the growth engine for this market, although we do expect the GbE market to hold its own with port shipments during the coming years," Rohit Mehra, vice president of network infrastructure at IDC, said in a statement at the time.

However, consortium members said the transitions happening in the data center call for networks that are faster than 10GbE and 40GbE. The specification adopted by the group will result in up to 2.5 times higher performance per physical lane or twinax copper wire between the rack endpoint and switch when compared with 10GbE and 40GbE links, officials said. The consortium wants to immediately create an industry-standard definition of the 25GbE and 50GbE physical layer (PHY) and media access control (MAC) layer behavior, which will include virtual lane alignment, auto-negotiation and forward effort correction characteristics, they said.

"The growth in data creation and usage mandates faster and more efficient interconnect technologies," Mellanox CTO Michael Kagan said.

The goal is to grow the consortium membership and fuel a rapid rollout over the next 12 to 18 months of 25GbE and 50GbE implementations that are compliant with the specification.

"We believe that 25 and 50 GbE serves a focused market requirement for next-generation, performance and cost optimized server- and storage-to-switch interconnects," said Rochan Sankar, product marketing director of Broadcom's Infrastructure and Networking Group.