Electronic Design

Communications: Ethernet

Ethernet Keeps Rolling Along Into MANs And SANs

Ethernet Keeps Rolling Along Into MANs And SANs
Name a local-area networking technology better than Ethernet. You can't? No surprise there. Ethernet has dominated LAN standards for years, simply because it has scaled well and otherwise adapted to our never-ending needs for more speed, greater coverage, and affordability.

Ethernet has succeeded where others have failed because it is a stable, reliable, low-cost networking solution that's easy to install and troubleshoot. Migration to higher speeds is fast and easy as the applications and organization demand. And while it is a LAN technology, Ethernet is now moving into metropolitan-area networks (MANs) and storage-area networks (SANs) with the 1-Gbit/s version. The new 10-Gbit/s Ethernet will also find its way into MANs and perhaps even wide-area networks (WANs) thanks to highly integrated interface modules like the Lithium module from Network Elements Inc. (www.networkelelements.com). This product not only includes an optical transceiver, but also an ASIC processor and a software suite that permits design of 10-Gbit Ethernet Sonet/SDH, and packet over Sonet (POS) systems.

Wireless versions of Ethernet are now replacing cabled versions. See the section on Wireless (p. 120) for details.

An even higher-speed Ethernet. Ethernet has scaled from 10 to 100 Mbits/s and now to 1 and 10 Gbits/s. There will obviously be a next increment. But will it be to 100 Gbits/s? That doesn't seem probable in the short term, but a 40-Gbit/s version seems likely. Sonet systems are heading to 40 Gbits/s (OC-768) beginning this year and next. A compatible 40-Gbit/s version of Ethernet seems likely.

Major advances in components to make Ethernet faster and cheaper. This is happening as you are reading this. Examples: 10-Gbit/s CMOS chip sets, small form-factor transceiver modules, vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs), and tunable lasers.

Convergence with Sonet at 10 Gbits/s. Sonet runs at 9.952 Gbits/s. One of the physical-media-dependent (PMD) interfaces in the new 10GE standard runs at 9.5846 Gbits/s with adjustments for 10GE to run over Sonet and vice versa.

Finalization and publishing of the Ten-Gigabit Ethernet (10GE) standard this year and introduction of the first commercial products. Adoption for fast LAN backbones, MANs, and WANs.

Rollout of One-Gigabit Ethernet (1GE) in LAN backbones and even to the desktop as prices decline. Deployment in MANs.

Adoption of 1GE and even 10GE to replace Fibre Channel in SANs and in network-access storage (NAS) systems.

Use of 1GE and 10GE in fast serial backplanes and switch fabrics to replace fast parallel buses. An alternative to other serial backplanes.

Growth of wireless Ethernet connections as speeds increase, interoperability improves, and options proliferate. (See the wireless LAN discussion on p. 120.)

Adoption of the Ethernet standard for widespread use in industrial networking. Industrial Ethernet is known as EtherNet/IP. This open protocol includes TCP/IP and a control Information protocol (CIP) that permits remote monitoring, troubleshooting, and control.

Work toward improving security and quality of service (QoS) via Ethernet standards working groups 802.1x, 802.11I, and 802.11e.

See associated timeline.

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