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David Fair, Ethernet Alliance Board Member

By Ethernet Alliance

David Fair joined the Ethernet Alliance in February, 2012 and has served as a member of its iWARP in the Data Center working group (iWARP brings remote direct memory access (RDMA) capabilities to Ethernet). David is currently Unified Networking Technologies Marketing Manager for Intel’s Data Center and Connected Systems Group / LAN Access Division. During his 15 years at Intel, he has been responsible for driving the adoption of new technologies in the marketplace. Some of the technologies for which he has worked to create an ecosystem include USB, PCI Express, DVD and DVI.

Why should companies become a member of the Ethernet Alliance?

The Ethernet Alliance is valuable to any organization that has a vested interest in the success of Ethernet, including universities, as it is driving the growth and advancement Ethernet through education, interoperability, and promotion of Ethernet technologies.

What impresses you the most about the Ethernet Alliance?

The energy level. The participants from member companies working with the Ethernet Alliance are very excited about driving the organization’s strategic initiatives, including the global push, education, and interoperability. The Ethernet Alliance is successful in its mission because there is just an incredibly high level of commitment and energy among its members.

For example, we’re making some great progress engaging our member universities. We’re starting a series of webcasts about some of the research that they have been doing on Ethernet. I’d been working with one of the EA’s University Program’s affiliates on an Ethernet-related project and saw that they were an Ethernet Alliance university partner, so I asked if they would work with us on a webcast about their research and they agreed. We’re hoping to launch the series pretty quickly. That’s just one example of the exciting pace set by the Ethernet Alliance’s Board of Directors.

Just this week, it was suggested that we should try to expand number of people in our LinkedIn group. We started with 293 members and we got to more than 1,000 in less than a week’s time. This expansion is enabling us to take advantage of social networking tools to connect to people who are interested in what the Ethernet Alliance is doing. Now we can regularly notify them about events, webcasts, and other activities that might be of interest.

How would you convince more universities to get involved?

For universities working on Ethernet-related research, the Ethernet Alliance represents the opportunity to connect with other universities doing similar work. They can share their results with an audience of their peers, as well as with Ethernet Alliance members, who may find what they are working on to be beneficial. There is really no other forum or organization that can create that kind of opportunity for sharing about Ethernet.

We have an increasing number of universities signed on and have a great opportunity to get them more engaged, create value for them, and help them deliver value to the broader Ethernet community.

How does the Ethernet Alliance expand the Ethernet ecosystem?

Part of my day job, actually, is bringing iWARP capabilities to Ethernet. This is

expanding Ethernet beyond classic networking into the area of high-performance computing. What iWARP delivers is very low-latency, high-bandwidth capabilities that you don’t get in plain Ethernet. It’s an extension to Ethernet that can expand the technology in new directions in high-performance computing.

What’s being done to encourage that expansion?

The IETF specification is in place, and there are a couple of vendors that have products supporting iWARP. But at this stage, one of the most important things is to get the word out that this capability exists and is available. iWARP is software-compatible with existing high-performance computing technologies supported by the Open Fabrics Alliance, including InfiniBand, which means existing HPC code can run on iWARP Ethernet.

This illustrates how the best model for successfully introducing new technologies is actually Darwinian biology. Many times people come up with great breakthrough technologies and they fail because they are disruptive and non-evolutionary. What’s exciting about Ethernet is that it has the genetic structure to evolve into many new directions – not just higher speeds, but new capabilities.

The successful way to expand the Ethernet ecosystem is to do it in an incremental backward-compatible way. iWARP is a perfect example of a feature that is added on top of TCP/IP in a manner that doesn’t interfere with anything else. An iWARP device can be incorporated into any data system in the world today without any problems.

Ethernet has evolved in amazing ways over its 30-year span. An engineer may look at it and say, “This is ugly, I can do much better than that.” In fact, several already have, but they ended up stuck because they didn’t provide the installed base an evolutionary path to the new capabilities

What is your take on the Ethernet Alliance’s global push?

We have a tendency in the technology industry in general to be very U.S.-focused. This global push is about driving Ethernet and its new capabilities worldwide. I think that is to the benefit of the world, and the Ethernet Alliance membership, which has a vested interest in the advancement of Ethernet technologies.

At Intel, we’re pushing very hard on the transition to10G Ethernet, 10GBASE-T in particular, as we think there are tremendous benefits for this technology worldwide. But it can’t just be an Intel push – we need an entire global ecosystem of switches and other equipment that have been tested for interoperability for the technology to be successful. All Ethernet Alliance members can share in this success by pushing for interoperability testing for new technologies.

What is the focus of the global push? More countries, more standardization?

On a global scale, it’s the adoption of advancements in the Ethernet ecosystem that may not dribble out to far-flung countries. What 10GBASE-T does is create a non-disruptive, evolutionary way of getting 10G Ethernet into the data center because it uses the ubiquitous RJ-45 jack and classic Cat 6 cables. Therefore, on the data center scale, it will make 10G Ethernet dramatically less expensive, which in turn will lower the barriers to adopting new technology in far off places. The global push gets the message out to them that the technology exists and there is interoperable equipment available from many vendors.

Why is interoperability important?

Interoperability is something that is always ongoing. The Ethernet Alliance would like to focus on end-to-end interoperability testing. This is an unsolvable challenge, so we will make progress but we may never get there, partly because the challenges multiply the more steps you add. If you have 10 different adapters and 10 different switches, you have 100 cases to consider. Add another layer of 10 options and that takes you up to 1,000. But I think we can make progress by picking some key cases.

Customers hate lock-in, and vendors love to create it. As vendors as well as Ethernet Alliance members we understand that the overall success of our products requires that we do interoperability testing. The reason that technologies such as PCI Express and USB have been so successful is because of the energy and money put into making sure they were interoperable solutions that gave people choices.

One of the big challenges for the Ethernet Alliance and other organizations is going to be Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). Storage over Ethernet is a really exciting expansion of the Ethernet ecosystem. FCoE offers an effective means bringing together storage and data center bridging solutions, setting the stage for the Ethernet ecosystem to deliver on the promise of a single, converged network. In the end, this will mean huge savings – as much as 20 percent. It’s a big deal but we’re still in the early stages of adoption so interoperability demonstrations are important to driving market acceptance of FCoE.

The Ethernet Alliance can be a voice that helps change this because ultimately, the technology is not going to be successful as long as it’s standard, yet proprietary. We have to break through those barriers.

Additionally, the Ethernet Alliance is working to establish alliances with other industry groups such as SNIA’s Ethernet Storage Forum and the Fibre Channel Industry Association. We’re looking to see if we can align with these organizations on interoperability testing and/or co-marketing. These alliances will also help expand the Ethernet ecosystem.

 

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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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Dan Dove, Ethernet Alliance Board Member

By Ethernet Alliance

An Ethernet Alliance Board of Directors member, Dan is currently serving his second term as the Technical Chair of the Ethernet Alliance’s High-Speed Ethernet (HSE) Subcommittee. He also has served as chairman of the IEEE’s Next-Generation 40G/100G Optical Ethernet study group since July 2011.

He enjoys participating in the Ethernet Alliance because he likes being engaged with its many members who are recognized as influential people within the industry. When communicating with the Ethernet Alliance’s high-caliber membership, ideas come to the surface that can be further developed by collaborating with those same people.

Why should companies become a member of the Ethernet Alliance?

The Ethernet Alliance is a great organization for companies that want to get more connected with the rest of the industry and understand the opportunities available in the Ethernet market. It’s also great for those that have a concept for a standard they would like to advance with fellow industry members before taking it into an IEEE group to promote.

If you look at our membership roster, it’s a real “Who’s Who” of major contributors within the Ethernet industry, many of whom hold significant influence within the standards bodies. Therefore, our members have the opportunity to engage with people who can make things happen.

Our members also have opportunities to assist the rest of the industry. People with new ideas that they believe need to be pushed harder will find support for consensus-building within the Ethernet Alliance. We can help you get your idea vetted, modified, or enhanced with other members’ help. And when it gets to a point where there is true value to the industry, the Ethernet Alliance can help build consensus to drive that idea forward.

The Ethernet Alliance’s subcommittee structure is focused on defined areas of technology. For example, the High Speed Etherent (HSE) Subcommittee has a charter and some specifics focused on HSE 40G/100G. As an example; If someone wanted to develop a 40G extended reach optical solution, they would likely run into like-minded people. Together, they could potentially build enough consensus to move into the IEEE with a call for interest (CFI) and build a standard.

So, this subcommittee structure plays a big role?

That’s where all the action really happens. As a member of the board, I can tell you that we want to see action taking place in our nine existing subcommittees. You could even propose a new subcommittee if it made sense – for example, the HSE subcommittee is considering changing its name to the 40G/100G Ethernet subcommittee to focus on these technologies and leave the door open for the formation of a new HSE committee aimed at even higher speed Ethernet solutions.

How does the Ethernet Alliance help to expand the Ethernet ecosystem?

As they mature, the subcommittees help to expand the Ethernet ecosystem. They often start out in the consensus-building stage, trying to get a standard developed, and getting objectives or baseline proposals adopted by the IEEE. Once that happens, the subcommittee evolves into a marketing organization by helping to increase awareness, performing plug fests, and creating a landing zone for real products. When the technology becomes available, customers know how to deploy it, where to get it, and what to expect from it.

Another key item we provide is education in the form of white papers, blog posts, social media messages, conferences, and webinars. Education is needed because the food chain for technology evolution tends to start at the supplier end. They put together new technologies and move them towards standardization, and that is when system vendors and end users typically get involved.

End users provide direction on what they expect to get out of that technology when it becomes available. Because they have not been involved in the entire process, end users may not understand how the technology is going to manifest itself in the world. That is where the Ethernet Alliance comes in – we educate those end users.

Why is the Ethernet Alliance making a global push?

We all see the importance of expanding our vision to include other regions of the world, primarily because Ethernet plays a significant role all around the globe. Therefore, our membership should reflect that too. We’re also taking this into consideration in our educational efforts. If we only provide educational materials in English, that limits the breadth of our reach and global outreach. We need to educate and communicate with members from around the world in their native languages. We also need to participate in trade shows outside the U.S. and truly globalize our activities.

What is the challenge in going global right now?

It’s the classic chicken and egg scenario: in order to expand our educational efforts and communication outward, we are going to need people with language skills and cultural understanding of places outside the U.S. We’re currently expressing our desire to globalize, our need for people who have multicultural and multilingual experience, and are soliciting contributions from member companies with those capabilities. They can become leaders in their own geographical areas and help the Ethernet Alliance to achieve its global objectives.

What does the Ethernet Alliance do to ensure interoperability and why is it important?

Ethernet and interoperability are joined at the hip – Ethernet is famous for its inherent interoperability – which is one of the reasons that the technology is as successful as it is today. When Ethernet was first introduced, computers were communicating in many different ways. Everyone had their own way of doing things, and nothing talked to anything else.

The people who created the Ethernet specification wanted make it possible for everything to work the same way and communicate together. This was made possible by starting with a thorough technical specification that was designed by definition for interoperability.

Verifying and demonstrating interoperability is critical. The Ethernet Alliance’s interoperability plug fests validate that things work the way they are intended to work. Ultimately, this means that no matter where you go in the world, or whose Ethernet equipment you use, you can plug things together and it will work.

If Ethernet is so compatible, why do you need to verify interoperability?

Over time we have discovered that specifications sometimes have areas that are not fully defined or may be open to interpretation.

Plug fests provide system and component vendors with a high level of confidence in the interoperability of their equipment before it gets to the end user. A manufacturer might be building the first switch ever made for a new Ethernet technology. Someone else might be building equipment that connects to that switch. If the two pieces of equipment work together at the plug fest, we build confidence they will work in the field, too. If not, the member companies can turn to other Ethernet Alliance members to help identify and resolve the problem.

Companies can try to do this on their own, but a lot of times the equipment they need to plug into is still in the lab. They can achieve a certain level of interoperability, but our plug fests offer a much broader scope of testing. Furthermore, all plug fest participants are members of the Ethernet Alliance and thus recognize the importance of interoperability as a fundamental part of Ethernet.

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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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Reflections On Interop 2012

By Chauncey Schwartz

Well, we certainly had a great chance to discuss Ethernet and the Ethernet Alliance at Interop 2012. By the end of the expo, we had more than 500 people visit our booth – some even came back for more information or to discuss new questions that had come up in their minds. All in all, Interop proved to be a terrific opportunity for stimulating both new and ongoing discussions about the future of Ethernet.

One particular area of interest was the new cabling that was displayed at the exhibit. We heard many questions relating to length, as well as receiving lots of queries about when will the next generation of cable be available, what is 10GBASE-T, and how will the technology be used. Another popular discussion topic among visitors to the Ethernet Alliance booth was our demonstration of 10Gbps Ethernet aggregating to 40Gbps Ethernet before being transferred to the cloud. The idea that these capabilities are now available from multiple vendors who are able to provide solutions generated a lot of thought-provoking questions like, “When do I use 40Gbps?” and “Why is it a preferred speed for sending/receiving data to/from the cloud?” “Where will 10GBASE-T best fit into the data center?” was also a common question.

The Ethernet Alliance team spent a great deal of time explaining its role as a marketing communication organization that is working very hard to improve the knowledge of Ethernet and Ethernet improvements within the community at large.  Many visitors to the Ethernet Alliance booth were quite interested to hear about our ongoing webinars that are keeping everyone informed on the status of Ethernet and new standards as they evolve. It was very rewarding to be able to help educate Interop attendees, and have an open dialog that left them with some new ideas about how to more fully leverage Ethernet in their data centers.

Thank you to our participating Ethernet Alliance member companies, our on-site staff, and Interop 2012 show organizers, each of whom helped make this event a rousing success.

Chauncey Schwartz II

Chairman, Marketing Subcommittee, Ethernet Alliance

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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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Five Minutes With Chauncey Schwartz II

By Ethernet Alliance

The 2012 Chairperson of the Ethernet Alliance’s Marketing Committee, Chauncey Schwartz II, has enjoyed a successful career in sales, marketing, and business management for more than 25 years. Last year he was actively involved in the Ethernet Alliance’s Ethernet in the Data Center Subcommittee. While putting together webinars and other events for the subcommittee, Chauncey saw a need for the Ethernet Alliance to create a clear set of metrics and processes. He decided to step up and use his skills and experience to help the organization achieve its ambitious goals for 2012.

What are the benefits of being a member of the Ethernet Alliance?

Ethernet Alliance members have an opportunity to be seen, influence Ethernet technologies, and make sure that what they have themselves developed follows Ethernet standards and interoperates with other equipment in a safe protected environment.

Ethernet Alliance  membership is very important for those who are developing Ethernet-based products, as well as people who use Ethernet-based products in their companies. Membership provides the opportunity to be involved in the discussions taking place about Ethernet today, which in turn will help shape the Ethernet of tomorrow. For people and companies that want to have an influence, being an Ethernet Alliance member is critical.

Organizations that are creating products incorporating standards-based Ethernet technology have an excellent opportunity to participate in Ethernet Alliance plug-fest activities. These plug-fests allow companies to test and prove their products’ interoperability with other manufacturers’ products. Members can take part in our interoperability demonstrations; these demos take place in large public forums where many people can see products interoperating with other products.

How does the Ethernet Alliance help to expand the Ethernet ecosystem?

It enables the expansion of the Ethernet ecosystem in several ways, for example, our strong relationship with IEEE. We coordinate and host IEEE meetings at which people address Ethernet standards, what the technology should do next, and how it can be improved.

Another thing we do to expand the ecosystem is to provide a place for great minds to meet by creating a space where 15 or 20 diverse companies involved in Ethernet can get on the phone to discuss issues and problems. They’re able to share ideas in a protected way. All of this allows us to develop consensus about what to do next; multiple companies are able to debate different topics and generate fresh ideas, which we can then take as a proposed new standard to industry standards organizations like IEEE. Doing so enables us to extend the ecosystem by adding to it.

These activities allow us to take Ethernet to new places, and to improve its effectiveness in the places that it has already been. We expand the ecosystem via this consortium of people, who are able to have open, honest discussions about how to make Ethernet a better technology.

What makes the Ethernet Alliance a safe place to have these discussions and do this work?

Our plug-fests – which take place at the University of New Hampshire’s Interoperability Lab (UNH-IOL) – start with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). When companies want to test a given characteristic of Ethernet they can come together to demonstrate interoperability of their products regarding that characteristic under the protection of the NDA. With the NDA, the companies agree not to publicly share the specific results of any vendor involved. Results are instead reported under the umbrella of an Ethernet Alliance press release.

This enviroment permits members to come together and look at a ways to fix issues or propose new solutions, and to do so safely. Companies are willing to do this because it enables them to potentially save multiple man-months of development. Bringing a product to a plug-fest gives them access to all the best and brightest minds in the industry, and people that know how to read technology traces. You have people from the storage, adapter, and switching end of the process. When they come together companies can more easily diagnose problems that would have taken an individual company a very long time to solve alone in their own labs.

Why is the Ethernet Alliance making a global push in 2012?

One of the Ethernet Alliance’s strategic initiatives for 2012 is to become more global in focus; we’re reaching into Europe and Asia.

It’s fairly simple – Ethernet and the Internet are used around the world. The need to transmit data and take advantage of what Ethernet offers is global.

We’ll look to establish relationships with industry organizations across Europe and elsewhere – Germany, Dubai, and Hong Kong, to name a few – where  we can co-market and participate in new globally focused activities. Ethernet is everywhere, so we want a global community engaged in our discussions. Reaching out enables us to talk to more people, and involve the whole audience of people and companies using equipment and services based on IEEE 802- and 803 Ethernet standards.

What does the Ethernet Alliance do to ensure interoperability?

Plug-fests lay the foundation and enable our members to bring new or old products in to try out new things. The second thing we do is interoperability demonstrations at tradeshows or events where there are thousands of people in attendance. These demonstrations give us the chance to very publicly show how Ethernet equipment interoperates according to the standards being used.

Interoperability is a simple but important benefit. If you buy Ethernet technology today that works with your standards-based server, you can buy a new server and use that same piece of equipment with it. Without interoperability, you would have to continually replace things in your network and that would be very expensive.

Standards are the foundation of interoperability; once defined, they can be implemented. Companies can add their own ‘special sauce’ but the fundamental piece is that a standards-based product will work with someone else’s version of the same thing.

Through our plug-fests and other interoperability work, the Ethernet Alliance gives consumers a great deal of flexibility in their decision-making process. For example, significant thought goes into how long a given Ethernet cable should be, what speeds it can support, and choosing the proper format for the data. The standard, and its demonstrated interoperability, mean that people can buy that cable with a high degree of confidence that it will work as it is supposed to work. It also enables them to make more staged transitions as their networks evolve. And that is very important.

 

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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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A Moment in Time

By John D'Ambrosia

During the course of my career, I have had the fortune to be involved at various points in the development and deployment of a number of technologies.  Each one had its own particular challenges and rewards, and each stage was necessary in a given life cycle.  I have drawn personal satisfaction at each of these stages – I remember clearly when the industry reached consensus on backplane channels during the development of XAUI in the 10 Gigabit Ethernet.  I remember the first time seeing serial 10Gb/s get transmitted across an electrical backplane in a private lab.  I remember when I stood at the podium as chair at the end of the IEEE P802.3ba 40 Gigabit Ethernet and 100 Gigabit Ethernet project.  I can recall each of these moments as clear as day.

The reality however, is that each of these moments were far removed from the ultimate commercial success and deployment of the respective technology.  So the question that needs exploration is “When is the moment when you realize something big is about to happen?”

For me, that moment has been when I stood in assorted booths at various shows throughout the years, and participated in industry interoperability demonstrations.  As Chairman of the Ethernet Alliance, I have spoken of this moment as “Real technology for real deployment!”  As an engineer and technologist, these have been great moments; seeing the technology actually work first-hand, as opposed to looking at a specification is an incredible moment.  These demonstrations go a step further though, as multiple individuals and corporations have used these specifications to design products, and when it is all put together – it all works!  This is a critical step into the development of an ecosystem and the ultimate adoption and success of a product or technology.

As noted recently in a blog by Bruce Tolley (http://ethernetalliance.org/blog/2012/04/03/intels-romley-server-platform-launch-a-tipping-point-for-10-gigabit-ethernet/), it is anticipated that the introduction of the Intel “Romley” family of processors “will be a catalyst for a broad industry shift from 1 Gigabit to 10 Gigabit connections at the server access edge.”  This shift will have a significant impact on the Ethernet ecosystem. 

With Interop Spring 2012 upon us, the Ethernet Alliance and seven of its member companies have organized an interoperability demonstration that will highlight Ethernet’s capabilities at supporting cloud computing, convergence, and virtualization in data centers, and that features 10GbE and 40GbE solutions.  Showcasing the effortless interoperation of 10G and 40G Ethernet, the network topology of the demo consists of three layers, including 10G attached servers in the access layer linked to multiple 10G switches in the distribution layer aggregated by two 40G core switches. The display illustrates how the latest in Ethernet technology is set to fuel the next generation of the Ethernet Ecosystem.

Showcasing technologies from Cisco, Emulex, Dell Force 10, Nexans, Panduit, QLogic, and Volex, the Ethernet Alliance interoperability demonstration can be found in booth #2360.  On behalf of the Ethernet Alliance, I would like to invite you to come to our booth at Interop, and witness, what is for many, “Our Moment in Time”, where the success of many will begin its journey to fruition.  And if you can’t make it to Interop, join us on Twitter and LinkedIn, where we keep the industry updated on this moment!

 

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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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