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Wrap-Up: Ethernet Alliance Plugfests: Improving Data Center Bridging One Test at a Time

By Ethernet Alliance

Henry He, Marketing Chair, Ethernet in the Data Center subcommittee, Ethernet Alliance; Technical Product Manager, Ixia

Often, a webinar in our high-tech circle introduces a new technology, explains how it works and illustrates how this new technology improves the data communication segment it serves. It is rare a webinar goes one step ahead to give insight into “how to improve the new technology itself”. This is exactly the subject of the most recent Ethernet Alliance webinar – Ethernet Alliance Plugfests: Improving Data Center Bridging One Test at a Time. 

If you attended the webinar, you learned about how these plugfests control an important piece of the technology adoption puzzle, and how participants can get ahead by bringing their products to these plugfests. If you were not able to attend you can view the recorded version here and I’ll summarize three key points for you.  

First, let’s review the word “plugfest” itself. A plugfest is a multi-vendor interoperability test event where many products are brought together in the same lab at the same time to efficiently test and effectively verify interoperability with other products, both complementary and competing, both existing and to-be-unraveled.

Second, the plugfest plays an important role in expediting the maturity of standards because more often than not, as end users of the standards are building products to standards under development, some bugs in the standards drafts are found and holes from passages are identified. When this occurs, the issues are debated in a neutral environment free of obscurantism, constructive feedback is provided to the standard body in a unified voice free of predilection, and the participants of the plugfest get a first stab at rectifying the issues ahead of the next standard revision. 

Third, there are short-term and long-term benefits to be consumed by participating in the plugfests. Equipment manufacturers have the rare opportunity to test their products against many others within a very short span of time, fix problems on the spot, and walk away with a highly interoperable product by the end of the week. That’s the short-term benefit. The long-term benefit is a better product for the operators, a better solution for the industry, and a better user experience with the new technology.

In the aggressive effort to consolidate data centers worldwide, no company is too big to be careless about interoperability. The fundamental foundation to the consolidated data center is the union of historically disparate networks and products. Data center bridging promises to unify protocols and technologies that formerly ran independently with a common backbone. Having one network will lower capex and opex for IT managers. Data center Ethernet plugfests sponsored by the Ethernet Alliance will be an important catalyst to insure that the various products on the market will be interoperable.


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.


10GBASE-T Comes of Age

By Chauncey Schwartz

With the next generation of servers capable of supporting 10G Ethernet (10GbE) on the motherboard, 10GbE is on the cusp of an explosive growth curve. With this comes the need for an effective rack cabling solution, meaning 10GBASE-T is also ready for an intense growth spurt. But how do you know when you should choose 10GBASE-T versus other connectivity options? And what about power consumption? How many vendors out there offer 10GBASE-T connectivity, if any? Questions like these are what keep cabling managers and network operators up at night, but here’s a chance to have them answered: the Ethernet 202: 10GBASE-T Revamped webinar.

Hosted by the Ethernet Alliance and presented by Ron Cates of PLX Technology and Siemon’s Valerie Maguire, this webinar is slated for Tuesday, June 26, 2012. There will be two sessions offered – one at 9:00 AM PDT, and a second at 4:00 PM PDT – with a short Q&A period after each presentation. Among topics to be covered include an introduction into the wide variety of Ethernet connectivity options available today, where 10GBASE-T fits into the landscape, techniques for lowering power dissipation when using 10GBASE-T, and an explanation of length restrictions.

One of the great things about the Ethernet 202: 10GBASE-T Revamped webinar is the value it offers for attendees. From a review of key benefits of 10GBASE-T technologies, to a discussion of EMI mitigation strategies, to exploring which equipment types can use 10GBASE-T interfaces, webinar participants will walk away with a deeper understanding of the technology and its potential application in their own organizations.

The University of Ethernet educational series is one of the many services the Ethernet Alliance offers to its members, end users, and the greater Ethernet ecosystem alike. Improving knowledge and understanding of the latest Ethernet trends and advancements among these key stakeholders enables the Ethernet Alliance to fulfill its primary mission of helping to grow and expand Ethernet as a whole. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to increase your knowledge of Ethernet connectivity options and 10GBASE-T technologies – register today for the Ethernet 202: 10GBASE-T Revamped webinar today.


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.


Looking Beyond 100 Gigabit Ethernet

By John D'Ambrosia

At this point in my career I have been fortunate enough to wear many hats, but the biggest hat I wore was when I agreed to lead the IEEE standardization effort to develop the next speed after 10 Gigabit Ethernet.  It led to me switching jobs, losing sleep occasionally, and left me with less hair than I had before (which sadly turned greyer).  I gained some things as well – a few lbs which I am working to lose, patience, experience that I don’t think you can get anywhere else, and perhaps the best thing of all – perspective. 

Next week, I will get to leverage this perspective,  as I travel to WDM & Next Generation Optical Networking to moderate a panel entitled, “100G + – Standards, Systems, Architectures and Components.”  It is a distinguished panel consisting of Ghani Abbas of Ericcson, who is a board member of the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF); David Law of HP, who chairs the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group; Peter Stassar of Huawei, who is a participant of ITU-T; and Yoshinori Koike, a research engineer with NTT Labs.   This respected group of individuals will look beyond the need for 100G, the technologies that will need to be developed, and discuss the role of the different standards groups and how they will need to work together to develop the next speed.

Personally, I think one of the biggest legacies of the IEEE P802.3ba 40 Gigabit Ethernet and 100 Gigabit Ethernet project is how individuals in different standards groups worked together to effectively deliver solutions supporting 40 Gigabit and 100 Gigabit Ethernet  solutions that operate together seamlessly throughout the entire Ethernet ecosystem.  This legacy has helped set an expectation on how the next industry rate development effort should be conducted.

The timing of this panel is excellent.  The work of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment (BWA) Ad hoc has been completed, and final approval of the report is expected at the IEEE 802 July Plenary.  A tutorial presentation will be given at this meeting highlighting the findings of the group.  (For more information about the meeting see  For more information about the tutorial see  If you think I am going to spill the beans about the finding here – SORRY!

Discussions regarding the next speed have been happening for the last two years.  It feels different now, as it is becoming more obvious to the industry that the data tsunami driving the deployment of 40 Gigabit Ethernet and 100 Gigabit Ethernet will also create new bottlenecks where the ecosystem, once again, will need a higher speed solution.  Scott Kipp, the President of the Ethernet Alliance, shared a quote with me, which I took to heart as I chaired the IEEE 802.3 BWA Ad hoc:

“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.“ – Albert Bartlett – American Scholar

Let’s keep that in mind as we move forward!



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.


So, Just What Is A Plugfest, Anyway?

By Chauncey Schwartz

In the course of my work with the Ethernet Alliance, I have the opportunity to speak with many people. More often than not one of the first questions I hear is, “So, just what is a plugfest, anyway?” followed by, “Why should I bother to take part in plugfests?” and “Do they really help? What do they accomplish?” These are very valid questions deserving of answers, yet fully explaining the value of plugfests requires more time than allotted by this short blog post. However, there’s a terrific opportunity coming up where you can find out more about this valuable interoperability tool – the Ethernet Alliance plugfest webinar.

Sponsored by the Ethernet Alliance’s Ethernet in the Data Center subcommittee, this webinar provides an in-depth look at our plugfests, including answers to key questions like how these events help end users and technologies to be tested in future plugfests. Led by Mikkel Hagen of the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab and Ixia’s Henry He, the plugfest webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, June 19, 2012. Two sessions will be held; the morning session begins at 9:00 AM PDT and will be followed by an afternoon session at 4:00 PM PDT. Each session includes a short Q&A period at the end of the presentation.

In addition to answering many of the questions I often receive about plugfests, the Ethernet Alliance plugfest webinar will give attendees a clear understanding of the overall plugfest process, how they facilitate and improve interoperability among vendors, and the relationship between plugfests and IEEE Ethernet standards. Attendees will also get a sneak peek at the next plugfest, set for October 2012, and hear the real-world results of recent plugfests.

In its mission to expand the Ethernet ecosystem, the Ethernet Alliance provides ongoing educational and learning opportunities through programs such as its University of Ethernet. Keeping Ethernet users abreast of the latest technology trends and advancements, our University of Ethernet curriculum delivers practical, useful information that can help you make better, more cost-efficient networking decisions. Don’t miss out – register for the Ethernet Alliance plugfest webinar today.


Chauncey Schwartz, Chair, Ethernet Alliance Marketing Committee, and Sr. Technology Marketing Manager, QLogic


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.


10GbE Standardized to 400 Meters on OM4 Fiber

By Scott Kipp

When the 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) standard released in 2002, the fiber optic links of 10GBASE-SR were standardized to at least 300 meters over Optical Multimode 3 (OM3) fiber.  OM3 is the leading type of multimode fiber being deployed today in the data center, but it isn’t the best fiber any more.  Optical Multimode 4 (OM4) fiber was standardized in 2009 by the Telecommunications Industry Association.  OM4 is now the latest and greatest multimode fiber and the IEEE is setting the supported distance of 10GbE to at least 400 meters.

When the 40GbE and 100GbE standard was released in 2010, OM4 was designed into the standard and achieved a distance of 150 meters on OM4 fiber while OM3 fiber went 100 meters.  The IEEE Maintenance Task Force ( is currently incorporating several standards (including 802.3ba that defines 40GbE and 100GbE) into the newest revision of the Ethernet standards that should be released this year as 802.3-2012.  While incorporating these documents, the task force decided to update 10GbE to support OM4 fiber.  See Table 1 for a summary of reaches over different fiber types.

Table 1: Fiber Types and Reach

Fiber Type

Bandwidth*Length Product (MHz*km or GHz*m)

10GBASE-SR Distance (meters)

40GBASE-SR4 and 100GBASE-SR10 Distance (meters)

















The bandwidth of OM4 is especially critical as the IEEE defines the latest version of 100GbE that will consist of 4 lanes of 25Gb/s instead of 10 lanes of 10Gb/s.  The IEEE is exploring the latest fiber optic link technologies in the new Next Generation 100Gb/s Optical Ethernet Study Group (  The group is collecting requirements for links that will run at 4X25Gb/s.  The EA would like to hear from end users about what distance you need to support in data centers that are getting larger every year.  Please tell us about your link requirements in the comments section of this blog.

You might ask, what’s your point?

My point is that Ethernet is using the latest technology to extend the distance of Ethernet’s fastest speeds.  For 10GbE, the IEEE just extended the distance of 10GbE by 100 meters to 400 meters by using OM4 fiber with the same 10GbE modules (transceivers). 

Scott Kipp

President of the EA


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.


Matt Traverso, Ethernet Alliance Board Member

By Ethernet Alliance

Matt Traverso, Ethernet Alliance Board Member and Hardware Engineering Manager, Cisco Systems

After years of serving as an active member in Ethernet Alliance activities and events, Matt made the decision to get more involved and join the Ethernet Alliance Board for 2012. His experience as a marketing expert and engineer at fiber optic module manufacturer Opnext Inc. is already being brought to bear in and the IEEE’s 100G Backplane/100G Copper task force and the Ethernet Alliance’s new Next Generation Optics study group. He also serves as an Ethernet Alliance webinar champion and is coordinating the Ethernet Alliance’s presence at the Optical Fiber Conference (OFC) 2013.

Why should companies become members of the Ethernet Alliance?

The Ethernet Alliance is a great venue to build consensus and find common ground outside of the standards process. Oftentimes in the standards process there is a lot of pressure to vote to move forward on an urgent issue. It helps to have an escape valve or additional meeting to help build consensus.

The Ethernet Alliance’s educational efforts are great for members, too.  For instance, the University of Ethernet webinar program is a great benefit and ties into one of the things that I am passionate about – trying to get more basic optics knowledge into the hands of the overall user community.

The Ethernet Alliance also provides members with broader exposure to the entire Ethernet ecosystem. If you only look at the particular application you’re servicing, you can miss the big picture. Ethernet today has a broad global footprint – the application footprint has increased from something that sits in an IT person’s rack to something you can find going into cars and service provider networks all over the world. It’s difficult to keep up on all the different applications if you don’t have exposure to other parts of ecosystem.

How is the Ethernet Alliance working to expand the Ethernet ecosystem?

While Ethernet as a whole has its own momentum, what often ends up happening is that as individual companies or organizations tend to narrow their focus to one particular product or service from a specific vendor. The Ethernet Alliance helps paint a broader picture by offering resources illustrating why Ethernet is the right technology choice for a given application, independent of any particular vendor.

The Ethernet Alliance expands the ecosystem and makes it grow by helping to drive the IEEE standards process. Those standards help to ensure that all network devices communicate effectively with one another.

Our educational efforts also help expand the ecosystem into new emerging markets and applications by explaining what is unique about the solution Ethernet offers versus other competing protocols.

How do you actually “drive” a standard to the IEEE?

The standardization process is driven by a collection of individuals, who are funded by their companies, to create a standard that facilitates communications from Point A to Point Z, depending on the protocol. It can be very difficult to distill the myriad applications into a clear set of objectives and specifications.

There are a lot of people involved who come from different geographies and different technical backgrounds – optics people like myself, software folks, people that are experts in backplanes or copper cables. Bringing all those people together into one room and distilling their diverse objectives into a clear set of specifications can be pretty challenging. The Ethernet Alliance helps to facilitate that discussion and gets them all on the same page.

How long does that process usually take?

The 40G/100G Ethernet Standard, IEEE 802.3ba took about four years. The record for the shortest amount of time goes to two standards that took only 1.3 years: the 40G-based FR standard and the 10G-based CX4 standard. In general, the standards that try to tackle a new rate take the longest. We will probably start the next rate, which is likely to be 400G Ethernet or perhaps Terabit Ethernet early in 2013. That has a lot of people excited.

How did the Ethernet Alliance help speed up the 40G/100G standard process?

Throughout the 40Gb/s and 100Gb/s Ethernet project there were a variety of issues that needed to be addressed, from setting the project’s objectives to creating the actual technical proposals themselves. During these challenging periods, the Ethernet Alliance organized offline consensus-building sessions, which contributed to the forward progress made during those critical moments of the project.

What does the Ethernet Alliance’s global push mean to you as a board member and as someone who is developing educational materials?

I think Ethernet is a great force for communication. There are many areas in the world that are doing interesting, innovative things with technology. If we can bring those people into the Ethernet fold and work on the Ethernet application together, it will serve to strengthen the technology, making networking and communication protocols that much better.

Without a global education effort, I think there is some risk of some balkanization of protocols and standards. A particular region may decide to create its own standard because all of the Ethernet materials are only available in English. There is a lot of benefit in bringing Ethernet to the whole globe and the Ethernet Alliance is the podium from which we can do that.

What does the Ethernet Alliance have at the ready to make a successful global push?

The Ethernet Alliance has a collection of some of the most influential companies and individuals in networking. We’re looking for ways to help everyone understand how we’re solving problems with Ethernet. Hopefully, they can leverage the successes and mistakes we have made to-date to make Ethernet better.

The designers I interact with are typically focused on getting their particular products out. Every now and then, they have an opportunity to look up and see what direction the standard is taking toward the next generation. The Ethernet Alliance provides them with the backstory about why Ethernet is set up the way it is.

One of our biggest challenges in making this global push is that most of our current members tend to be from North America. We are trying to be more inclusive, but it is sort of a chicken-and-egg scenario. Until we start to do the push it’s hard to expand our geographical base. We just need to get the ball rolling and keep moving ahead.

What are some of the things that the Ethernet Alliance does to make sure that its interoperability efforts have made a difference?

The Ethernet Alliance tries to provide a proof point that interoperability between vendors’ equipment is possible. It’s not as if the Ethernet Alliance is some sort of certification house, rather, what the Ethernet Alliance does at its plug fests is to show that all this theory that we’ve put together in the standards works. We actually hook up Box A to Box B and demonstrate that messages can be transmitted and received without any problems.

I think this is really important for the success of Ethernet. Without having a safe and friendly venue for vendors to prove that their early technology prototypes interoperate, it can be hard to get the ball rolling.

What is the level of awareness of the Ethernet Alliance among end users?

It stretches all the way from no awareness to closely monitoring what we do. There are billions of devices with IP addresses now; when we move to the “Internet of Things” that is being discussed, that number will ramp up by factors of 10. Toasters and refrigerators and cars will all suddenly be able to communicate with each other.

It’s amazing to see so many devices out there, and the wide range of individuals that are using them. You have the folks at our national laboratories who are pushing the boundaries on some of this stuff – they pay close attention to what the Ethernet Alliance does. Then you have folks that could care less; they just want connectivity to get their Netflix movies. It truly runs the gamut.

In general, the people that tend to pay attention to the Ethernet Alliance are the folks that are pushing some of the new applications spaces such as automotive, data center apps, or some of the new higher data rate efforts.

Is there a good interface for the end user to engage the Ethernet Alliance?

That is one of the things we’re trying to improve. There are ways for major end users to approach us, but this is where education really comes into play. We serve as a good resource for educational materials providing the backstory on why Ethernet is constructed the way it is and the purpose of Specification X, Y, or Z. People can use us for reference, which in turn enables us to serve as a voice for some of the end user feedback we receive. Ultimately, this helps us make Ethernet as useful as possible.

How important is end user input to Ethernet Alliance?

Anytime we embark on trying to expand the Ethernet ecosystem, we need end user feedback. Otherwise, we run the risk of pushing Ethernet in a direction that is not useful.

What has been your favorite thing about being an Ethernet Alliance member?

I think the consensus building has been really nice. It’s just one more venue to have casual conversations about detailed specifications with very knowledgeable people. It’s a good group of people.


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.