The Ethernet Alliance HSN Plugfest at UNH IOL – 25-29 April, 2022
by Pavel Zivny, Ethernet Alliance HSN Co-Chair and David J. Rodgers, Ethernet Alliance Events Chair
2022 is fast becoming a year of “we did it again” events and happenings, this time with the Ethernet Alliance produced High-Speed Networking (HSN) Plugfest for 50GbE and 100GbE/lane interoperability testing held at the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab (UNH-IOL) the week of 25 April. A primary goal of the event was testing the early implementation of the IEEE802.3ck standard within the various participating member companies’ offerings, whether in single lane or multiple lanes up to 400GbE and 800GbE configurations.
There was indeed a pent-up demand for this year’s inaugural plugfest event, with 18 Ethernet Alliance member companies representing tens of products including providers of modules, captive cable assemblies (DAC, AEC, and AOCs), NICs, Switches, Routers, ICs, and a bevy of test and measurement solutions. The plugfest involved hundreds of test pairing experiments encompassing protocol interoperability and physical layer (PHY) specification compliance. The feedback generated will be provided to the IEEE802.3ck workgroup as it is going through its final drafts for ratification. (A full report of the 50GBASE-R and 100GBASE-R per lane test findings will be supplied to the members once all test results have been tabulated.)
This is a milestone in the evolution of Ethernet, as this is the first time the Ethernet Alliance has held an interoperability test event for verifying and validating both the protocol as well as physical layer compliance for 100GbE/lane operation. Considered by many to be a “holy grail” achievement in the industry, the number of interoperable products at this early stage of the IEEE 802.3ck standard bodes exceptionally well for the rapid deployment of broad number of interconnect solutions. As evidenced by this recent plugfest, the market will receive well-crafted and highly interoperable products with 100/200/400GbE and 800GbE/port capabilities in the relative near future.
In addition to the 100GbE/lane testing, plugfest participants reaffirmed 50GbE/lane performance with interoperability and protocol testing for the IEEE 802.3bs physical layer connections. This effort included 50GbEx4 (200GbE) and 50GbEx8 (400GbE) connections over the classic Direct Attach Cable (DAC), Active Optical Cable (AOC) and new Active Electrical Cable (AEC) assemblies. With increased adoption of 400GbE interfaces, reasserting the physical layer and interoperability of the various electrical and optical interconnects is essential for maintaining the high-level operation datacenter and carrier customers’ demand.
The interest and success in this HSN plugfest, the first the Ethernet Alliance has organized since the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns halted all face-to-face events, highlighted the importance of interoperability testing. Additionally, the Ethernet Alliance and participating members have already planned the next plugfest event for the second week of October this year. The October 2022 event plans to focus on upper layer interoperability testing in addition to further physical layer conformance. Companies interested in partaking in this next plugfest should contact the Ethernet Alliance.