Ethernet Technology Consortium Launches 800 Gigabit Ethernet Specification

By Tiffany Trader

April 7, 2020

The newly rebranded Ethernet Technology Consortium (ETC), formerly known as the 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium, announced a new 800 Gigabit Ethernet specification and an expanded scope aimed at meeting the needs of performance-critical networks necessary for applications in high-performance computing, enterprise datacenters and machine learning. The move brings the organization beyond its roots in 25 and 50 Gigabit Ethernet and a step closer to the Terabit Ethernet era, propelled by enormous data demands that dictate ever-faster communications.

“Ethernet is evolving very quickly and as a group, we felt that having 25G in the name was too constraining for the scope of the consortium,” said Brad Booth, chair of the Ethernet Technology Consortium. “We wanted to open that up so that the industry could have an organization that could enhance Ethernet specifications for new and developing markets.”

This architecture can support 16×53.125G or even slower interfaces, but 8×106.25G is the main focus, says ETC.

This week ETC made available the 800GBASE-R specification for 800 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE), which implements a new media access control (MAC) and Physical Coding Sublayer (PCS). The new spec is based on two sets of existing 400GbE logic from the IEEE 802.3bs standard (providing a total of 32 25-Gbps PCS lanes), redefined so data can be distributed across eight 106 Gbps physical lanes. Through reuse of the PCS, standard forward error correction (FEC) is retained, maintaining compatibility with existing physical layer specifications.

“The intent with this work was to repurpose the standard 400GbE logic as much as possible to create an 800 GbE MAC and PCS specification with minimal overhead cost to users implementing multi-rate Ethernet ports.” said Rob Stone, technical working group chair of the Ethernet Technology Consortium.

The consortium has been innovating ahead of its eponymous roots. A year ago, the 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium introduced a low-latency forward error correction (FEC) specification for 50 Gbps, 100 Gbps and 200 Gbps Ethernet networks to boost HPC and datacenter applications and provide a high-speed Ethernet option that rivaled non-Ethernet interconnects (ie, InfiniBand and high-end proprietary networks).

“Five years ago, only HPC developers cared about low latency, but today latency sensitivity has come to many more mainstream applications,” said Stone at the time. “With this new specification, the consortium is improving the single largest source of packet processing latency, which improves the performance that high-speed Ethernet brings to these applications.”

The consortium said the FEC spec cuts FEC latency approximately in half, improving overall physical layer latency, with a particular benefit to hyperscale datacenter networks that span a large number of nodes and require multiple hops.

The consortium’s 45-member roster includes top-level promoter members Arista, Broadcom, Cisco, Dell, Google, Mellanox and Microsoft. All except Dell were founding members that formed the 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium in July 2014 to support the specification of single-lane 25 Gbps Ethernet and dual-lane 50 Gbps Ethernet technology, and accelerate the standards coverage afforded by IEEE 802.3.

The 800 GbE specification is now available now for download.

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