100Gbps Ethernet shows NBN's promise

100Gbps Ethernet shows NBN's promise

Summary: The coming glut of 100Gbps Ethernet shows that the potential growth of the National Broadband Network is limited only by the laws of physics — and the laws of Parliament.

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If you've seen The World's Fastest Indian (and perhaps even if you have not), you know all about the Bonneville Salt Flats. For a hundred years, this ancient, dried-up inland sea has become a Mecca for adrenaline junkies from around the world, who gather to push machines to ever-increasing speeds across its 412 square kilometres of flat nothingness.

Network engineers have been engaged in similar efforts for decades, working long nights and days to figure out how to push data down a wire or fibre-optic cable at ever more-dizzying speeds. They may not have the live-fast-die-hard character of your average Bonneville revhead, but these information-age Burt Munros have flirted with the laws of physics and wracked their collective brains to get data from point A to point B faster than ever.

It may not look like much, but Bert Munro's modified 1920 Indian set a land speed record in 1967.

Burt Munro's modified Indian motorcycle set a land speed record in 1967.
(Burtmunro1920indian image by Daniel O'Neil, CC3.0)

Their success has pushed networking to new speeds with regularity. It was just over a decade ago that carriers were using asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) technology to link cities with blistering 622Mbps trunk networks to carry unprecedented volumes of phone calls and a little bit of internet traffic. It was expected to last years, but exponentially increasing demand for data services has kept carriers investing furiously in anything they can find to boost their networks' bandwidth.

ATM quickly became irrelevant as carriers turned back to Ethernet to deliver first 1Gbps, then 10Gbps, 40Gbps and — as evidenced by a recent news announcement from Juniper Networks — 100 gigabits of data speed. And that's 100Gbps per fibre-optic cable; bundle a dozen or five-dozen fibre-optic lines together, as is commonly done, and you're talking about some serious bandwidth.

Cisco Systems demonstrated working 100Gbps technologies a year ago, and US carrier Verizon last year pushed data 73km at 92Gbps using gear from Nortel in a controlled test environment that was recently bettered in a 103km Nortel-Verizon test over UK research network JANET.

There was a time ... when they said it couldn't be done at all ... "they" were already calling time of death for Ethernet ... citing the laws of physics.

There was a time, not too long ago, when they said it couldn't be done at all. In fact, "they" — analysts, technicians, and so on — were already calling time of death for Ethernet before gigabit Ethernet had made its debut, citing the limitations of the laws of physics. Ever-smarter ways of squeezing bits onto fibre-optic cabling, however, have hushed the naysayers and kept the networking industry topping its previous achievements with impressive regularity.

Juniper's release of a commercially available 100Gbps router officially raises the bar, boosting capacity per fibre by a factor of 10 compared with the technology most carriers are using now.

Blah, blah, blah, speeds, feeds, geek talk, blah, blah, blah. This sort of stuff may make your eyes glaze over, but in the world of telecommunications it's exciting news: without this kind of technology, there will be no way to deliver projects like the NBN. It's one thing to deliver 100Mbps to every home and business, after all, but add that all up and you need a heck of a lot of bandwidth linking it all together.

Just two years ago, Telstra's Next IP network was implemented using cutting-edge technologies that push 10Gbps of data over a single fibre. Sydney and Melbourne, for example, are linked with two bundles of four fibre-optic cables each, providing 40Gbps between our two most populous cities. That's a lot of bandwidth, but replacing the 10Gbps boxes at either end of those cables with 100Gbps-capable gear would boost the Sydney-Melbourne link to 400Gbps.

These sorts of upgrades are becoming de rigueur investments as FTTH takes hold. Juniper's announcement quotes Verizon, which is especially desperate for something like this because providing its FIOS FTTH service to hundreds of thousands of homes has taxed its core networks like never before. Expect carriers around the world to quickly follow suit as a proliferation of gear from Cisco, Nortel, Alcatel-Lucent and other core network suppliers floods the market by year's end.

For network engineers, 100Gbps Ethernet is reason to break out the champagne — and cause to start working on terabit Ethernet (actually, they're already working on it). For carriers, it's another way to keep up with the ever-greater demands of ever-more-bandwidth-hungry customers. And for customers?

Well, nothing yet. But this could change quickly: the NBN will deliver fibre-optic cables running directly to a huge number of homes. Initial speeds of 100Mbps are hardly a technical limitation, but rather a convenient, round figure about which politicians can blather on and network planners can do easier back-of-the-napkin calculations when planning the NBN's design.

Building the NBN correctly will be critical if it is to be the future-proof infrastructure it can potentially be... Done right, the NBN can bring loads of bandwidth to every corner of the country and provide decades of headroom.

With the fibre in place, these fibre-optic cables could theoretically be expanded indefinitely into the future. After all, many businesses are already using 1Gbps Ethernet connections to link their various branch offices. Supporting millions of households at gigabit speeds would be technically difficult/impossible/expensive (choose your option) but with new core network equipment enabling a tenfold boost in carriers' capacity over existing fibre, it could very well be done.

That is, it could be done as long as the NBN is built correctly. And building the NBN correctly will be critical if it is to be the future-proof infrastructure it can potentially be. Yet there is a real risk that the NBN's value proposition may be undermined by cost-cutting and compromises: Stephen Conroy this week admitted, for example, that the NBN cables may run overhead instead of underground where they rightfully belong.

Ongoing dramas with Telstra's RIM-based PSTN roll-outs, which can limit access to ADSL services, have already shown the dangers of compromising on network design.

One hopes that cost limitations and pressure to deliver the NBN quickly won't compromise its underlying technical credentials. Done right, the NBN can bring loads of bandwidth to every corner of the country and provide decades of headroom.

While the Bonneville speedsters may be limited by the forces of friction and air resistance, the coming glut of 100Gbps Ethernet shows that the potential growth of the NBN is limited only by the laws of physics — and the laws of Parliament.

Topics: NBN, Broadband, Cisco, Networking, Telcos, Telstra

About

Australia’s first-world economy relies on first-rate IT and telecommunications innovation. David Braue, an award-winning IT journalist and former Macworld editor, covers its challenges, successes and lessons learned as it uses ICT to assert its leadership in the developing Asia-Pacific region – and strengthen its reputation on the world stage.

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16 comments
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  • Compromise ?

    "Yet there is a real risk that the NBN's value proposition may be undermined by cost-cutting and compromises: Stephen Conroy this week admitted, for example, that the NBN cables may run overhead instead of underground where they rightfully belong."

    So you think that running cables overhead somehow limits their technical capability ?
    anonymous
  • Reality Check

    100 Gb/s does NOT show NBN's promise.
    Or its promise is so far into the future that it is meaningless to assess its impact and at what cost it will be achieved. And many other questions that come to mind.
    Same as faster and faster space ships do not show any meaning to space travel for individuals yet. While I begrudge no one the right to pursue whatever vision they have, no matter how much a fantasy or close to reality it is, It is a real problem when they use govt resources ie the peoples resources to do it.

    If you want to build an Ark on the side of a mountain, go for it.

    You want to build a "spuce goose" be my guest.

    You want to build "the Concord" using youn money, fine. If your the govt, NO. if your going to coopt, coerce, crush or lean on a public company to achieve this then NO NO NO.

    If you want to invade another country or diminsh public education or health. Then NO.

    If you want to renationalise Telstra. Then buy it back and give away a free set of steak knives with every connection.

    But do not, repeat do not dress up what one day far into the future will become a reality as an absolute neccessety today in a plan b approach to get Telstra to spend $5B. on terms acceptable to the Govt. not Telstra the party with ownership of the assets and money the govt sold to the public.
    anonymous
  • reality check time, reality check

    lol, it was telstra who were telling us an nbn is a necessity, when they thought they were going to win the tender.

    sol trujillo - "This is 21st Century nation-building; an enormously complex task given Australia's size, population and terrain. It requires massive investment, potentially more than the Australian Government has committed to the water crisis in the Murray-Darling Basin... It also offers massive rewards, with benefits to the Australian economy estimated conservatively at $200 million a month. It won't be easy; it's high risk; but it's doable".

    http://www.nowwearetalking.com.au/nbn/telstra-ceo-on-the-national-broadband-network

    Nowwearetalking heading - "AUSTRALIANS NEED A WORLD-CLASS, HIGH-SPEED NATIONAL BROADBAND NETWORK - IT IS VITAL TO OUR FUTURE. A STATE-OF-THE-ART BROADBAND NETWORK WILL UNDERPIN AUSTRALIA'S APPROACH TO HEALTH, EDUCATION, BUSINESS, CLIMATE CHANGE AND LIFESTYLE".

    http://www.nowwearetalking.com.au/nbn/building-the-national-broadband-network

    oh how the story changes as those shares dip even further. bout time you had a reality check, reality check!
    anonymous
  • Optus Agenda has been uncovered. And will Backfire

    Your a moron anoymous. There is no contradiction, the story hasnt changed. Telstra wanted and still does want to do the NBN.
    As previously mentioned. Hence the 100mb/s HFC upgrade without any money or resources from the Govt.

    Yes thats right Telstra said it was high risk.

    Yes Telstra wanted to do it . For 4 years they have been saying that.

    But the govt wanted to do it first at Telstra shareholders expense and now at Telstra destruction and Tax payers exorbitant expense.

    As the shareprice droping, that is exactly the whole point. It is happening because of the Govt action. IT IS PERVERSE, IT IS FRAUD.
    anonymous
  • moron shareholder

    no you are a greedy telstra shareholder moron. so the sooner you admit it the better.

    4 years ago, telstra wanted to extend their own network and re-monopolise by building fttn and making their opponents dslams obsolete. but not only that they wanted the most unrealistic roi too. a monopoly and top dollar, i wonder why the accc said no way?

    thats why they didn't get to build it and why your shares are suffering, moron.

    australia does not care about you share price. just like australians don't care about bhp's shareprice when the commodoties dip. australians don't care about hih shareholders losing everything either.

    understand moron, this is bigger than you greedy shareholders and you are of no consequence to the big picture.

    the share price isn't falling because of the government, it's falling because a smart**se telstra ceo, submitted a non compliant tender. stop blaming everyone else.

    if you are worried, sell those shares. but you bought them in the first place which just proves which one of us is truly the moron, hey moron!
    anonymous
  • Moron Welcomes Communist Style Seizing of Assets.

    A. Being a shareholder or not of Telstra or BHP is irrelevant.

    B. While its true Telstra and the ACCC could not agree to terms. Telstra moved on with life. NBN 1.0 and 2.0 is evidence the Govt could not live with that outcome not Telstra. And the govt absolutely can not do the NBN without breaking Telstra. (As Optus openly admits.)

    B. The govt selling the public an asset and then actively taking action to diminish that assets value or to coerce and threaten that company to use its money and assets is FRAUD. And something at the very least every citizen of a democratic country should be extremely disturbed by.

    Taking that action practically within weeks of receiving final payment for that company is criminal.

    Yes the issue of whether Telstra gets F***** Over is bigger than shareholders.

    Its goes to the core of a fair and just society.
    And Australia is or perhaps was one of those built on democratic capitalism.

    By the way if the idea of stealing is so ok with you, if you have anything worth stealing maybe you would like to give your address so I can arrange for you to "vend in" some of your assets in the name of a good cause that will 8 years from now reap untold benefits for the whole universe to share in. . . . . You Absolute Fool.

    Governments acting criminally in the name of the greater good are the most dangerous of all.

    History is littered with examples.
    anonymous
  • you are fos

    little fanboi, where did i say i agree with compulsory acquisition? my my, you jump to conclusions to protect those shares, you most coyly tried to avoid the subject of, don't you?

    your entire speech revolved around accusing me of something i never said, typical telstra fanboi idiocy.

    i didn't say i agree with compulisory acquistion, i just said we don't care about tour incessant childish bleating about the *share price*, because you were the one stupid enough to buy telstra shares knowing that regulations applied.

    so if you are a man and not just a worthless puppet fanboi, please apologise for that wrongful accusation, although i won't hold my breath.

    what i do object to is little fanbois talking on behalf of their shares and not the greater good.

    telstra had their chance in 2005 and only had to reduce their roi from outrageously, unbelievably profitable to ridiculously profitable and they would now have their, back door, re-monopolisation. though they were just too greedy, like you, weren't they moron.

    I will await my apology with anticipation as you do your shares to sky rocket 100%...

    just so that you can get your money back, lol.
    anonymous
  • You are evidence the $43 B should be spent on schools and fast.

    I don't own any Telstra shares you moron.
    (But when I did it was fruitful, but to give some profit back for nothing but political reasons is ..)

    Thats not the point.

    As for ROI.

    Fact No.1 ,there is no law that says you have to have it below a certain point.

    Fact No.2 The figure was NOT the highest by any means of the stated aims of ASX 200 company's.

    Fact No.3 All shareholder of all company's want the MAXIMUM return.

    Fact No.4. The venture was not without risk of commercial FAILURE.

    As for regulation, read the T3 Prospectus.

    Assurance was given that regulation would not materially change in the short term future.

    While it may have slightly left the door open for the accc to change the AMOUNT of payment Telstra recieved for services under current regulation, IT DID NOT IN AMY WAY SHAPE OR FORM COVER THAT THE GOVERNMENT WITHIN RECIEVING FINAL PAYMENT FOR T3 WOULD ATTEMPT TO START A TELCO COMPANY TO COMPETE AGAINST TELSTRA !!

    I cannot believe you are that stupid I their reasonbly presume you are part of the OPTUS plan to subvert the country's laws for their own absolute gain. . . . . . . . . But then again maybe you are so Stupid.

    Clearly you dont understand that what is happening to Telstra is worse than being compulsorily aquired.

    The govt is trying to get Telstra to wear the Govt's duty without buying Telstra back.
    anonymous
  • reality check lawrence jr

    your entire worthless comment was based around your own shareholder greed or because you are a sycophantic ankle grabbing employee. probably both. deny it all you like, but we all know the truth!

    so where's my apology, moron?

    and don't forget who started the attacks by calling the other moron, ***khead.

    fact no1. when you are proposing a *monopoly* the rest doesn't matter. the roi is negotiated on behalf of consumers by the accc to keep us from being gouged. telstra lost because they were too greedy, period.

    but it is most comical to see you and your more intelligent mentor, sydney lawrence, come here in defence of your shares/job. *I cannot believe you are that stupid I their reasonbly presume you are part of the OPTUS plan to subvert the country's laws for their own absolute gain*. . . . . . . you say

    yes that makes sense???? and is straight from the sydney lawrence book of ***ckwitisms.

    so you keep on talking ***t out of desperation little moron fanboi, i'm sure sydney believes you. but the rest of us are just laughing at you and laughing even more than we do at sydney after that.

    you high flying investor, employee you. cya in 5 minutes. you just can't help yourself can you fanboi? lol.
    anonymous
  • @You are evidence.

    As opposed to Telstra subverting the country's laws for their absolute gains do you mean RC?
    anonymous
  • Where you a Moron from birth or did you become one?

    Question. Do you have to be Moron first to believe Optus' propaganda or do you become one once you believe in their tripe? I did'nt know you before so I cant answer but maybe one of your "friends" can write in and help us towards a conclusion.

    Now as to my alleged concern over Telstra's share price.

    Guy's like me don't care where a company's share price is heading, we will make money from it either way. All that is important to us is we read and ride the reality of its share price, regardless of what causes it to move.
    And right now its been plummeting and still completely held hostage by the actions (intended or otherwise) of the govt.
    Telstra's share price and its destiny is not in its own hands.

    Depending on a number of things Telstra's share price could drop much further or could rebound hard. As for myself and my opportunity to make money from this, I DONT CARE WHICH. But from a sense of a fair and just society and a restoration of my faith and a better future for the next generation, I truely hope circumstances appear to ensure it goes up.

    But as I have stated earlier, whats at stake is not just the fair treatment of shareholders in a company but the established liberty's and justice of our society.

    Oh and by the way Telstra did not and have not asked for a monopoly or exclusivity in any shape. In fact Optus always did and continues to call for the NBN 2.0 to be a monopoly and Telstra should not be allowed to even run the networks it currently owns !

    Stop peddling lies your born Moron.
    Or is that foolishly evolved Moron.
    (how's that for an apology)
    anonymous
  • ATM irrelevent?

    I read up to this bit, had a laugh then skimmed the rest.

    "ATM quickly became irrelevant as carriers turned back to Ethernet to deliver first 1Gbps, then 10Gbps, 40Gbps and — as evidenced by a recent news announcement from Juniper Networks — 100 gigabits of data speed. And that's 100Gbps per fibre-optic cable; bundle a dozen or five-dozen fibre-optic lines together, as is commonly done, and you're talking about some serious bandwidth."

    The carrier backbone (whether is be Telstra or Optus) is not ethernet, it's SDH, and commonly over that is ATM. Why ATM? Because it's robust, reliable, and you can put just about anything you want over it, coincidentally even ethernet.

    As for the 100Gbps speed, well last I checked Reliance (over in Dubai I think) were testing a STM-256 x80 DWDM, that's 3.2Tbps per optical fibre, sure that's only in testing but in all seriousness both Telstra and Optus would have transmission equipment capable of handling in excess of 100Gbps speed on the long haul lengths, the Juniper ethernet port is in fact the bottle neck in the system.

    At the end of the day ethernet is a wonderful protocol for people to talk about and wave as the future, but it's not the building block of transmission networks, it's merely something that rides upon it.
    anonymous
  • No back hoes overhead!

    No backhoes overhead!
    Yes I know there are other risks, but as it happens I've never had a power/phone outage due to overhead lines being down.

    I've suffered the phantom backhoe a couple of times - in the CBD no less.
    anonymous
  • 100Gbps Ethernet shows NBN's promise

    I have read up to here and had a good laugh.
    However 2 facts are needed to to put the whole argument into perspective again.
    1.Telstra Transmission Network Backhaul is not SDH anymore.They stopped building SDH systems a year ago. They are currently installing 40Gb between Capital cities now & 10Gb DWDM systems in Regional areas.
    2. Cost to the End User/Customers for Telstra and the Rudd CoGovt NBN Co to get a ROI has not been estimated or announced to my knowledge yet. Maybe because its either to hard, or to scary. At the end of the day it will come to the Price for me for a FTTP installation and connection PLUS the ongoing price per month for at least 100Gbits of Data Download & Upload sent to me at at a max speed upto 100Mbs per before I will jump onto it and say its worth it. The final cost per month is being kept under wraps it seems so that the whole debate is not killed off quickly as its far too expensive for the likes of me at home to afford to use and pay for it.
    anonymous
  • @100Gbps Ethernet shows NBN's promise

    "1.Telstra Transmission Network Backhaul is not SDH anymore.They stopped building SDH systems a year ago. They are currently installing 40Gb between Capital cities now & 10Gb DWDM systems in Regional areas."

    True, DWDM is used for the long haul as it can handle far more capacity, but it's still enters and leaves the DWDM transmission path as SDH. Telstra would still be installing SDH delivery for distribution from the DWDM long haul points though.
    anonymous
  • NBN Hurry UP

    I cannot wait for the NBN to come online.

    It is amazing how every time a discussion on the NBN or Telco’s always ends up as Telstra bashing. No I don’t own shares in Telstra. But have been a customer for years. I have tried other Telco’s but the experience has always been the same. Additional services are limited and ending up costing more than Telstra. Reason stated it is because of Telstra. The cheaper mobile phones always come out dearer, why, because they backbone of Telstra’s network. It is about time Telco’s started building their own networks and stop blaming Telstra for their own problems.

    It is about time Australia got a descent broadband system. The rest of the world is so far ahead of us. After years of neglect from the Howard government in IT development it is a welcome relief to actually hear a minister who understands the importance of IT infrastructure.
    The current crop of ISP’s do not help either, come on. Sell you a data plan the offers “fast” data rates, then drop the speed to modem status after certain amount of download.

    If John Howard had not sold off Telstra, the NBN could have been implemented a lot sooner. 2 years down the track, waste of Tax payers money on tendering, other delays. Money & time wasted.

    Roll out NBN now, even if it is 100% government owned.
    anonymous