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Q&A: Ethernet Evolution—25 is the New 10 and 100 is the New 40

Mellanox has been known for its support of InifiniBand, but it’s also a major player in the high-speed Ethernet market. One of the latest technologies is 25-Gbit/s Ethernet. Dell’Oro predicts that it will have the most rapid adoption compared to any previous speed. In fact, it expects two million adapters to be shipped in 2018.

I spoke with Kevin Deierling, Vice President of Marketing at Mellanox, about this trend and the part Mellanox expects to play in the market.

Wong: When you talk about your Ethernet products, you say “25 is the new 10.” What do you mean by that and how did 25GbE come into being?

However, many data centers are only cabled to support 10-Gb/s Ethernet. This would require new optical cabling infrastructure, since 10-Gb/s optical cables won’t support 100-Gb/s rates today. That is where 25-Gb/s Ethernet comes in. It uses the same LC fiber cables and the SFP28 transceiver modules are compatible with standard SFP+ modules. This means that data-center operators can upgrade from 10 to 25 using the existing installed optical cabling and get a 2.5X increase in performance. For this reason, industry analysts, including both Dell’Oro and Crehan, are forecasting that 25-Gb/s Ethernet will have the most rapid adoption of any previous networking speed, with Dell’Oro predicting two million adapters shipping in 2018.

It seems like 25GbE has come out of nowhere, but the technology actually came into being as the natural single-lane version of the IEEE 802.3ba 100-Gb/s Ethernet standard. The 100-Gb/s Ethernet standard uses four separate 25-Gb/s lanes running in parallel, so defining a single lane makes it a straightforward and natural subset of the 100-Gb/s standard. It is different from the previous 10- and 40-Gb/s generations, where the single-lane 10-Gb/s standard came first and was then followed by the four-lane 40-Gb/s version.