Ten Gigabit Ethernet standard approved

The first fibre-only Ethernet standard has been approved, opening the door for a new generation of Ethernet products

The standards board of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) on Thursday ratified 802.3ae, a version of Ethernet which runs at 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps). The technology is already well proven, with a major demonstration by 24 vendors at last week's Supercomm show in Atlanta, but, as it runs only on fibre-optic cables, it will not reach into enterprise LANs very quickly. The chair of the .3ae group, Jonathan Thatcher, who is also principal engineer at Worldwide Packets, thanked his colleagues for more than three years' work: "I sincerely hope that you and your companies will benefit greatly from this standard," he said in an email. "Humanity at large certainly will." The first to benefit will be service providers and those selling equipment to them, since the technology will cost quite a lot at first and will initially best suited for provisioning metropolitan area networks across installed fibre. Recent depression in the telecoms area may mean that the take-off will not be as explosive as some might have hoped, but it certainly fills a need. Suppliers including Agilent, Enterasys, Extreme Networks, Foundry, Intel and Nortel Networks showed 10Gbps products working together at last week's telco industry show, SuperComm in Atlanta, in a demonstration organised by industry group the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance. "End users can deploy this high-speed technology in multi-vendor environments with confidence, knowing that Ethernet's reputation for ease-of-use and integrity will continue," said Bob Grow, chair of the IEEE 802.3 working group, a principal architect at Intel and a former chair of the 10GEA. "We will have a 10Gbps module within the next few months," said Martin van Shooten, European marketing manager for Extreme Networks. It will cost around $60,000 (£42,000). Although he acknowledged that early sales would mostly be for metropolitan area networks (MANs), it will reach the enterprise sooner than some people think, he said. "There will be 10 Gigabit Ethernet backbones from day one. We have some enterprise customers already using it." Where companies have fibre within or between their buildings, 10 Gigabit Ethernet will be a logical upgrade, which will become even more attractive as the price starts to come down from 2003. "We have a handful of large enterprise customers running their own metropolitan networks ," said van Shooten. Rival 3Com is not planning to launch its 10 Gigabit Ethernet products till 2003, when prices can be more enticing to enterprises.

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