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July 2, 2014

Microsoft and Google fire up data centre networks to 25 and 50Gbps Ethernet

New consortium to deliver faster Ethernet than rival groups.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

Tech firms, including Google, Arista Networks and Microsoft, are looking to develop a specification that would allow large-scale data centres to run over a 25 Gbps and 50 Gbps Ethernet link protocol.

The single-lane 25 Gbps and dual-lane 50 Gbps protocol would increase the performance between the rack endpoint and switch two and half times the amount of current 10Gbps and 40Gbps Ethernet links.

"The new Ethernet speeds proposed by the Consortium give superior flexibility in matching future workloads with network equipment and cabling, with the option to ‘scale-as-you-go,’" Yousef Khalidi, an engineer at Microsoft, said in a statement.

"In essence, the specification published by the 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium maximises the radix and bandwidth flexibility of the data centre network while leveraging many of the same fundamental technologies and behaviours already defined by the IEEE 802.3 standard."

The 25 Ethernet Consortium, including Mellanox, Arista Networks and Broadcom, said the specification will be made available royalty-free to vendors that join the consortium

The specification covers physical and MAC layer behaviours, including virtual lane alignment, autonegotiation and forward error correction characteristics, according to the group.

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It comes as the amount of data being created and moved over networks increases rapidly due to increased demand for cloud computing, big data and mobility.

IDC said the market for Ethernet switches hit $5.2bn in the first quarter this year – a decline of 12.3% compared to the same period last year, as revenues for routers dropped 12.5%.

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