Reflections on Pandemics, Tradeshows, and Why Ethernet is Always the Answer

By Ethernet Alliance


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David J. Rodgers, Ethernet Alliance Events Chair; Teledyne LeCroy

Mike Klempa, Ethernet Alliance OFC21 Technical Lead; Amphenol

 

In March of 2020, Ethernet Alliance members were eagerly anticipating OFC 2020 in San Diego, Calif. 17 member companies gathered together at Teledyne LeCroy to build out the year’s interoperability demo. Company allegiances and rivalries were set aside for the greater good as we worked to create a working display of all things Ethernet. Everything was coming together nicely and we were ready to go…right up until we suddenly weren’t.

The pandemic put the brakes on our ability to showcase the best of Ethernet innovation at OFC 2020, much to our collective disappointment. Fast-forward to January 2021 and planning for OFC 2021 began. Amidst a rapidly shifting landscape, we explored multiple scenarios – in-person, virtual, and hybrid – for our yearly demo. With health and safety concerns paramount in our minds, planning a virtual event made the most sense. But how would that work, exactly?

The Ethernet Alliance’s annual showcase is a great example of Ethernet interoperability and innovation in action. It ties together the technology’s stalwart foundation to its boundless future. How on earth do you virtualize something like that? The answer came in the form of Ethernet itself.

Pulling together a physical equipment demo, then transforming it into something capable of living in cyberspace is no small feat. While showcasing compatibility is at the heart of these Ethernet interoperability demonstrations, it’s a nuanced concept that can get lost in the potent mix of copper and fiber whipping bits around billions of times per second, racy new hardware and equipment, and twinkling lights.

For OFC 2021, Ethernet Alliance members brought best-in-class products touching every facet of compatibility. We saw new 400G devices interoperating seamlessly with one another, with mature ports representing those that will be found in-field for years to come, as well as diverse mediums and form factors spanning copper, optics, and AOC backplanes interfacing through SFPs, QSFPs, QSFP-DDs, OSFPs, and much more.

The true tour de force however, was being able to offer a look at what the future of Ethernet holds: multiple touchpoints of interoperability woven into a fabric where everything just works as soon as you plug it in. From Amphenol / TE 800G channels driven by Marvell PHY going into Tek / Keysight equipment, to Juniper optics connecting to Broadcom optics in Cisco switches, and Juniper switches being driven by Spirent and Keysight traffic generators…it was a sight to behold.

None of this happens in a vacuum, though. As in years past, equipment and personnel were gathered at Teledyne LeCroy for the build-out. However, with not every member company able to provide onsite support engineers, we turned to Ethernet to make the process a success. Logging into tools and systems remotely via LAN and Wi-Fi, the Ethernet Alliance OFC 2021 team not only assembled the most robust Ethernet interoperability demo seen to-date, it virtualized that demo into a rich interactive display that attracted thousands of visitors to our online booth.

In the end, the solution to the challenge of how to virtualize a complex physical demo was Ethernet. The answer is always Ethernet. And now, we’re ready to take on OFC 2022. Until then, you can check out our OFC 2021 demo here.

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