Ethernet Alliance

Ethernet Alliance Blog

Synergy between IEEE 802™ Wired and Wireless technologies: Meeting in the Ether

By David Law

By David Law, distinguished engineer, HP Networking; chair of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group

We live in a networked world, and it is imperative that all technologies, wired or wireless, are capable of working together to enable an eco-system, where end-to-end communications are possible. Ethernet’s continuing evolution has helped to enable today’s eco-system, which has helped to deliver the value of Metcalfe’s Law.  There is this misconception out there that wireless technologies are somehow killing Ethernet. Some point to the freedom that wireless enables while others point to the lack of the RJ-45 jack on their favorite tablet computer. The simple reality is that while an Ethernet connection may not be visible, on the back of that wireless access point is an Ethernet port.  It isn’t disappearing, just moving out of everyone’s direct line of vision. Those responsible for wireless networks, either in their home or business, know that Ethernet is not going away. 

Therefore, instead of looking at these as competing technologies, people should look at the synergy between the two technologies, and understand how emerging use cases for wireless technologies will impact Ethernet. Some of this is happening. For example, in preparation to make the leap to 400 Gb/s Ethernet, IEEE 802.3 Bandwidth Assessment Ad Hoc was chartered to explore industry bandwidth requirements. Bandwidth going up due to increased wireless usage is probably not a big surprise.  However, as we look to the future of Ethernet, the future use cases and applications of wireless technology should be considered to fully understand potential implications to Ethernet development efforts underway.

For example, when looking at future bandwidth requirements, it was noted that by 2016 there would be more mobile users consuming video than wired users. Thus, the impact on the wired backhaul feeding these wireless access networks will need to be considered. And how about access points that leverage Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology.  Will these future use cases increase the power requirements of the access points? This becomes important as the IEEE 802.3 Working Group is currently working on the next generation of Power over Ethernet – 4 Pair Power over Ethernet. And we can’t lose sight of the bridging requirements between cellular, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet.

For those proponents of Ethernet to ensure that Ethernet isnot an evolutionary dead end technology, it is necessary to continue consensus building efforts to understand the potential application spaces where Ethernet may be leveraged. On October 15, 2013 at the Ethernet Alliance’s Technology Exploration Forum 2013, there will be a panel session titled, “Synergy Between IEEE 802 Wired and Wireless technologies: Meeting in the Ether.”  We will explore how IEEE 802 wireless technologies will impact Ethernet, and what the Ethernet community needs to consider. It is important that the industry as whole has meaningful discussions to build consensus on how Ethernet needs to evolve, and this session will provide that opportunity.

For more information regarding the Ethernet Alliance’s Technology Exploration Forum 2013, please see

David Law is a distinguished engineer at HP Networking and chair of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group.

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


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.


Exploring the Future of Ethernet with SDN

By Gilda Foss

Gilda Foss, Industry Evangelist, Office of the CTO, NetApp

TEF Chairperson & Board of Directors, Ethernet Alliance

As we celebrate Ethernet’s 40th Anniversary at the Technology Exploration Forum, we reminisce that it was only 40 years ago that the concept of Ethernet was born.  Over the last couple of decades, Ethernet has become ubiquitous in our daily lives. Today, Ethernet has become the foundational technology for local area networks. It has given birth to a vision of a converged infrastructure that will make it easier to administer, troubleshoot, upgrade and maintain the network.  For years, data center Ethernet switching equipment has been based on closed, proprietary vendor implementation, providing very limited flexibility for the user.

The progress made in open source applications and software can be leveraged in Ethernet switches to create a new generation of open, flexible and customizable solutions.  SDN replaces the traditional closed-code Ethernet switches and allows data center customization for optimized and efficient operation.  Software-defined networking [SDN] is an approach to networking where control is decoupled from hardware and given to a software application called a controller.  SDN will also enhance the end-user experience in the data center space making its management much easier.

The Technology Exploration Forum SDN-focused panels will explore how SDN is playing an important role in enabling the network to adapt further and faster, driving the pace of knowledge and innovation. The panel sessions will discuss how the emergence of SDN has the potential to address the evolving connectivity requirements for Big Data and scale-out networks.  Scale-out networks are optimized network infrastructure for scalable environment for Big Data and high-performance computing (HPC).  The advent of SDN in 40GbE / 100GbE will support high traffic environments such as HPC, cloud and virtualized data centers.   Furthermore, the panel will discuss using scale-out network architectures and how today’s data center can offer large aggregate bandwidth.

Network switches deployed in the scale-out architecture were generally realized using reasonably sized routing tables for common deployments. When the scale-out architecture is employed in the large data centers, routing tables in these switches are often seen as the limiting factor when workload mobility and thus flattening of the network is needed. To create a flat network, every Ethernet switch in the scale-out network needs to carry large number of forwarding entries.  SDN enables small routing tables to be deployed in scale-out architectures.     

The SDN panelists will also discuss how software defined networking gives a centralized table computation model and the techniques that can be used to realize higher aggregate table sizes in scale-out deployment along with meeting the mobility and flattening of the network objectives. The end-to-end view of the scale-out network allows the SDN controller to perform effective aggregation of the forwarding entries at the network level.  

The recent emergence of SDN is a development with huge potential to address burgeoning connectivity requirements.  Including data virtualization, and management of high performance network architectures, this transformation of the network from the classic architecture of discrete physical tiers to a highly resilient cloud-optimized architecture is already under way. SDN is enabling one overarching orchestration level by directly addressing the inflexibility and complexity that makes today’s networks a constraint for network operators. By combining Ethernet with SDN, operators will have the power to optimize their network for virtualization on every level and enable the kind of collaboration that meets future bandwidth. We are thrilled to provide deep-dive panel discussions on this hot topic.

The goal of SDN is to allow network engineers and administrators to respond quickly to changing business requirements. In a software-defined network, a network administrator can shape traffic from a centralized control console without having to touch individual switches. The administrator can prioritize, de-prioritize or even block-specific types of packets with a very granular level of control. This is especially helpful in a cloud computing multi-tenant architecture because it allows the administrator to manage traffic loads in a flexible and more efficient manner. Essentially, SDN allows the administrator to use less expensive, commodity switches and have more control over network traffic flow than ever before. 

Please visit our TEF 2013 website for more information and details – we look forward to seeing you there in October!


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.


Ethernet: The Future is Now

By John D'Ambrosia

The celebration of Ethernet’s 40th Anniversary has spanned multiple events this year.  The Ethernet Alliance will be hosting its celebration Tuesday, October 15 in conjunction with its fifth Technology Exploration Forum (TEF), appropriatelyJohn D'Ambrosia named, “The Future of Ethernet.” 

As Chairman of the Ethernet Alliance, I have been fairly involved in the planning of the event, and I have to say that it has been personally fulfilling.  I look forward to attending presentations and engaging with the father of Ethernet, Bob Metcalfe.  No doubt it will be an enlightening experience.  The conversations I have had while planning TEF 2013 have found their way into my thinking as I have pulled together presentations for my other activities. 

First, to me Metcalfe’s Law is pure genius: The value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system.    We should all pause for a minute and think about this.  As more people, and devices, connect to a network, any network, the functional, economical, and social value of that network grows. 

And it is not just “networking” we need to consider.    We also need to think about the processing and storage capabilities that are being enabled by the modern day network.  All of this ultimately working in synergy to enable this engine known as “The Net.”  The more that people and devices connect to this engine the more powerful it becomes.  So it isn’t just about the networking, the processing, the storage, the applications, etc – it is about everything working together.

This raises an interesting question though.  What is Ethernet?  This may sound like a funny question for the Chairman of the Ethernet Alliance to be asking, but think about it – how many things out there claim to be Ethernet?  I have never been a fan of turf wars, as I believe that the general forward direction of all things Ethernet is in the best interest of Ethernet.  But this whole phenomenon made me wonder what Bob, as the Father of Ethernet, thought about all these claims of things being Ethernet.  His reply “Ethernet is a brand – a brand of innovation!”

A brand of innovation.  That is actually how I started engaging with Mr. Metcalfe, as we exchanged several tweets about the 400 Gb/s Ethernet Study Group I am chairing in the IEEE.  Why not Terabit he asked?  My reply was to ask for his help to help get the industry working on the underlying technologies that would enable Terabit Ethernet.

But, my oh my, TEF 2013 has grown beyond this discussion.  Yes, there will be discussion regarding feeds-n-speeds.  It is an Ethernet discussion after all.  But there are so many other topics happening.  For example, the synergy between wired and wireless technologies.  Despite what some think, WiFi is not killing Ethernet, just the opposite. It is connecting more people to the network, and making it more powerful.  There will also be panels on Vehicular Ethernet, Photonic Integration, and SDN.  As well as Bob leading a brainstorming session on getting the various Ethernet related organizations working together for the future.  

And I shouldn’t forget our featured speakers – Nan Chen, President of the MEF, Tom Burns, Vice President and General Manager, Dell Networking, and Wael Diab, Senior Member of the IEEE and Vice-Chair of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group and Senior Technical Director, Broadcom.  Each of these individuals are sure to have some very insightful commentary  given their backgrounds in relation to Ethernet.

TEF 2013, The Future of Ethernet, will be a special event as we look to the future.  There is so much excitement within the Ethernet Alliance as we prepare for TEF 2013.  I can only imagine how engaging the actual event itself will be.  If you want to find out more about TEF 2013, please see  Registration is open at:

I look forward to seeing everyone there as the industry starts plotting Ethernet’s course for the next 40 years.


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.