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TEF Q&A – Michael Bennett, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

By Ethernet Alliance

What are the top three things you’d like to take away from the Technology Exploration Forum (TEF)?

I’m interested in hearing what kinds of problems end user’s are running into and what kind of solutions they are seeking. I’d also like to get a sense of where Ethernet is headed from here, especially in terms of higher speeds – what are they going to be and how soon do we need them? And, I’d like to make connections with people that I might not otherwise meet face-to-face.

What is your role at the TEF?

I’ll be the moderator of the panel on the Role of Power in Networks. One of the things I’m looking forward to is getting the conversation going between the panelists Una Song and Bruce Nordman, who both work in the energy industry, and Bob Felderman from Google, who will share his views about the things he thinks are missing in the industry.

I’m hoping that the panelists and myself will be able to indicate to the people in the room the state of energy efficiency in the industry, discuss where we would like to see it go, and talk about opportunities available to close the gaps or further develop solutions that are in the works.

What topics or issues will be of particular interest to attendees?

We’ll start by painting a broad stroke from general to specific. In general, the panel will provide an update on numbers presented in the past. In specific, Bruce, who is an energy researcher, will discuss energy use by network equipment.

One of the things that needs to be repeated is that solving the energy problem requires a multi-pronged attack. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The panel will cover the solution space and serve as a needs analysis to identify the things that look like they have been solved or that we are making progress on, and shine a light on other areas where we see there is still work to be done.

When we talked about putting together the panel, Bob Felderman pointed out that there are a lot of devices out there, but there is no software to help manage them. He will be talking to a room full of experts that will be able to discuss and explore this problem

We will have this environment that is rich with really bright people who are looking for really smart ways to solve problems. If a good idea comes up, light bulbs will come on and people will start talking and their ideas will have real potential to take off.

Will people really feel free to share their ideas?

That’s where the Ethernet Alliance and IEEE play an important role. Most people attending will be members of either or both organizations and they will share ideas under a certain set of rules that allow them to discuss almost anything without sharing everything. The TEF is almost like a focus group except we are covering a lot more ground. Nevertheless, we will be focused and organized around Ethernet. But even under the umbrella of Ethernet, there are a lot of things to talk about.

What’s more interesting — the past, the present or the future?

I think people will be most interested in the future. I have my own curiosity about things that I hope to find out about. Energy Star is an energy-efficiency incentive offered by the EPA to help people competing in the market by getting a label. I’d like to know when we are going to see Energy Star labels on networking equipment.

Energy Efficient Ethernet, IEEE 802.3az, was published in October of last year and we are seeing products that are poised to hit the market. So, we want to find out how much of an impact these products are going to have and find out if a device has it, can it get an Energy Star label, and what types of devices are eligible for a label.

What results are you hoping your panel will produce?

I’d like to discuss things that are being done in front of people who can take what we say and further develop worthy ideas. For example, Bruce is going to talk about a relatively new idea that has to do with Power over Ethernet. People have heard hallway conversations about his ideas, but those conversations have never really gelled. The TEF is a great environment to toss out an idea, start talking about it, and discuss if things should be moved forward to initiate the process that moves the idea into the IEEE.

I also hope we can identify gaps in the energy solution set with respect to Ethernet. If any are sufficiently interesting and have a high value proposition, we can gauge whether or not people are interested in working on them. That is what I’m looking for but the other panelists have their own set of goals.

Are companies pursuing energy efficiency simply for competitive advantage or are they just as concerned about the amount of energy being wasted by all the networking equipment being deployed?

It’s a little bit of both. For example, Verizon has a publicly pronounced energy efficiency policy. If you Google the words Verizon and green, you’ll find dozens of announcements on what they are doing to reduce energy usage and its cost.

As much as companies want to save the planet, they also want to reduce their operating costs. When they think about installing networking and computing equipment they realize that for every watt required for  operation, another watt is required for cooling. They are looking for innovative ways to reduce their carbon footprints and their costs in order to accomplish their goals.

How much energy are we talking about?

We did forecasts on 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet and based on the market coverage we were able to come up with pretty big numbers. When you look at just the device itself you are talking about saving maybe a half-a-watt to one watt per port depending on the speed of the device. But, if you have billions installed and turned on 24×7, then it adds up quickly. A conservative estimate that was made said that about $450 million a year in energy savings could be achieved once the market was completely saturated with 802.3az devices. We won’t know how close the forecast was for years to come.

When will we see 802.3az products being used?

A few network equipment companies offer it and now the Mac Book Pro supports it . Apple is the first major computer vendor to use it, and we expect the others to follow suit. I know that there are many network equipment vendors supporting the feature in their products. Maybe by this time next year there will be enough products in the market that we can do a case study or two.

What about the existing installed equipment?

The industry standard lifecycle is about five years. In addition, there is a lot of wireless equipment coming on line. These days, enterprise network managers are asking themselves whether or not they need to install wired networks. Fortunately the 802.11 suite of wireless products have built-in energy efficiency. That is going to affect us.

Wired networks will be around for a long time, but it will be interesting to see number of copper Ethernet ports shipped to wireless ports, or equipment. A computer plugged into a jack represents a port, but wireless devices can be used to support many devices including cell phones, laptops, printers, etc. If there is a big transition from wired to wireless taking place, perhaps more focus should be placed on what is being done in wireless.

So there are a lot of open questions. We will probably have as many questions as we have things to say on our panel. Having a room full of end users and vendors is a great environment to ask those questions and get feedback.

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the individual(s) and should not be considered the views or positions of the Ethernet Alliance.

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TEF Q&A – Manoj Wadekar, Ethernet Alliance Board Member & Technical Committee Chair

By Ethernet Alliance

Why is the Ethernet Alliance focusing on end users at the upcoming Technology Exploration Forum?

We wanted to do this TEF in a new way because in the last year, we’ve seen that people appreciate a forum where they can come together to discuss their future needs from Ethernet.

At previous meetings, we had a limited number of end users who would talk about their Ethernet needs and pain points. There was a lot of interest from people in the room,  as most were from the system and device community and they are always looking to figure out what actual end users want. Discerning the real pain points remains a challenge for anyone defining a system or product

The feedback we received was that it would be fantastic to have more end users come and talk about their view of the world and where Ethernet  technology needs to go. So, this time, we are asking the end-user community “What do you need?”

What was the “light bulb” moment that led you to make the format change?

In 2009 Andy Bach from the NYSE Euronext gave a keynote at our spring TEF.  His speech generated so much discussion that that we struggled to keep to our remaining schedule. It was easy to see that people were very interested in talking to end users. We have had a lot of lively discussions arise from our technology panels, but it was satisfying to see so many people wanting to engage in discussion after Andy’s talk.

What will TEF attendees get from this meeting that they didn’t last time?

There are two things. One is insight into new trends like how virtualization, cloud, high-speed networks are coming together and what that means to the end users. The second is Ethernet itself – convergence is driving new use cases beyond networking and span to storage, low-latency applications etc. How do the end users perceive readiness for such capabilities of Ethernet in their businesses? These are the two angles that people want to learn more about from the end user point of view.

People know that all these things are happening and need to happen. But I think hearing it from the end user point-of-view will provide true validation of those thoughts.

What about prioritization? Will attendees get a sense of what direction they need to go in?

Yes; people want to understand because there are new architectures coming. Most of the time, product companies have their noses very close to the ground but end users are the ones that have a view of what they want and use. Even though we’re all connected to the end users through our sales and marketing teams and the data that we get back from them, there is nothing like hearing actual end users sharing and talking about the direction they would like us to take.

Does the willingness to listen to end users stem from lessons learned from past technologies such as ATM and SONET?

There are definitely lessons that have been learned. Sometimes there is risk of solution being created ahead of needs or at least it not being tailored appropriately to the problem statement.  When you hear an end user say that something is a strong requirement, you’ll go and try to make that happen When lot of technological changes are happening, many vendors try to determine what their priorities should be by looking at things from the end users’ perspective. It helps them to make the best decision about their own internal priorities and product strategies.

The second thing is, end-user perspective helps to bound a solution to practical bounds. For example, there may be practical steps to achieve final goal of a complete cloud based infrastructure. There may be immediate techniques that end users might be interested in but that we’re missing out on right now.

Aligning their priorities with those of the customers will help product developers and system vendors to target their solutions to specific customer needs. It also will give them a chance to meet with decision-makers who will choose where that technology will be going for that end customer.

This is not a typical conference where you have end users walking around looking at products. It’s not about the number of leads you can get, but how much mindshare and understanding you’re getting about when end users are going to look at various technologies, why they’re looking at them, what they’ll be used for, and which pain points they’re really trying to solve.

What kind of feedback do you expect to get from this TEF?

When I talked to the end users who are speaking at TEF 2012, I discovered there was an interest on the end user side, too. Most of the attendees of conference  are actively involved in defining Ethernet standards, so this is an opportunity for End Users to come in and influence this small, very focused community that is dedicated to defining Ethernet standards. These end users believe TEF 2012 is the right place for them to deliver their message about what kind of technology they want and how they want to use it.

Again, this is the first time – we’re just starting down this road with an end user-focused TEF. This conduit between end users and actual technology creation should be maintained. We’ll continue to learn and collect feedback as always, and hopefully this will be the first of many more end user TEF’s to come.

Is this being done anywhere else in the Ethernet community?

The Ethernet Alliance is committed to the expansion of the Ethernet Ecosystem, and supporting the development of Ethernet.  This event is a way for us to support that commitment.  As far as I know, this is the first time a whole conference has been focused on having only end users come and talk directly to the technologists who are defining Ethernet. Furthermore, in this event the Ethernet community is our technology advisory board.  That’s not being done anywhere!

How did you select the speakers?

We started by looking at various technology areas that our members are interested in. Individuals who could provide insight into things like speeds, latency, power, and driving the technology to new capabilities and requirements were approached. For example, the financial industry needs more speed; the oil exploration people are looking to improve their data centers; and still others are looking at leveraging cloud computing.

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the individual(s) and should not be considered the views or positions of the Ethernet Alliance.

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Technology Exploration Forum Q&A With John D’Ambrosia

By John D'Ambrosia

 

What is the Technology Exploration Forum (TEF)?

The TEFs are an ongoing series of forums sponsored by the Ethernet Alliance to enable industry discussion and consensus building on various topics. The Ethernet Alliance organizes a TEF when we see the need for members of the Ethernet ecosystem to come together and communicate with each other about the continuing evolution of Ethernet and its potential impact on Ethernet standards and technology.

How will the upcoming TEF on Thursday, February 16, differ from past meetings?

This will be our sixth TEF. It is the first time that the agenda of the day is focusing solely on the end-user perspective. We are inviting CTO’s and other high-level end users to fully participate in the forum. The Ethernet industry has developed a great deal of technology over the last 10 years, and we want to get their perspective on how Ethernet can do a better job for them and their networks. This TEF will basically be a brainstorming session about what end users need and when they need it. Details about “The End Users Speak!” are available on the event page.

What key issues and concerns do you expect to discuss?

We are going into this TEF with no expectations other than focusing on the conversations taking place that day. There are always discussions going on between end users and their suppliers about various topics, such as increasing bandwidth, interoperability, and the need for low cost solutions. These conversations, however, need to happen at an industry level. This TEF will give everyone that has a vested interest in Ethernet’s evolution an opportunity to explore the exact nature of end users’ needs and discuss how to move forward, which might mean identifying needs for new standards and technologies.

What topics will be covered at the TEF?

We have 14 of the Ethernet industry’s best and brightest speakers that will offer up-to-the-minute information and their own Ethernet expertise and experience to attendees. The TEF will begin with a panel discussion on Ethernet in Future Data Centers. Speakers include Rao Ramanujam of Nationwide Insurance, Hartley Fred of Chevron and Matt Estes of Walt Disney.

The second panel will focus on Ethernet and the Heart of the Internet with Martin Pels of Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), Shamim Akhtar of Comcast and Jay Behrens of Frontier Communications. We are very fortunate to have Andy Bach of the NYSE Euronext delivering the keynote address at lunch to discuss the future of Ethernet and its ability to address his network demands. His talk will be followed by a panel addressing The Role of Power in Networks with Mike Bennett of LBNL, Una Song of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Bob Feldman of Google.

The Forum will close with talks from two speakers. Todd Roth of Harris will discuss Ethernet’s role in entertainment. Paul Nikolich, of YAS Broadband Ventures and Chair of IEEE 802 LAN MAN Sponsor Committee, will present a talk on The IEEE and Ethernet’s Future.

This is going to be an exciting and informative TEF. The Ethernet Alliance has always received positive feedback on these events. Everyone who attends will be very pleased that they made time for this event in their busy schedules.

Why are TEFs important?

This is very simple – these events enable the industry as a whole to gather and have an open and frank discussion on Ethernet and its future. Such conversations improve the industry’s focus on technology and standards development efforts. It also is important that all of the stakeholders in the Ethernet ecosystem participate in these discussions in order to enable the best solutions.   

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the individual(s) and should not be considered the views or positions of the Ethernet Alliance.

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