Ethernet - Is faster fast enough?

By Paul Mooney On October 22, 2009
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Modern wisdom says you can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much bandwidth. There may be some debate about the first two, but it appears that the third is right on the money.

In the discussion about the need for faster Ethernet we hear of drivers like HD video, mobile backhaul, and point-to-point applications. Social media doesn’t immediately come to mind, but it is a significant factor. (How often have you submitted a tweet only to get the “Twitter is busy” screen?) According to Facebook engineer Donn Lee, many companies need 100G Ethernet in the data center today and could use 400G or 1T Ethernet by the end of 2010.

At the Technology Exploration Forum in Santa Clara, CA in September, Lee said Facebook data centers will require a 64 Tbps data center aggregation layer by the end of 2010. Sixty-four terabits per second. They can implement that with 64 x 1T ports (manageable) or 640 x 100G ports (not so manageable).

The box he needs is a 16Tb switch with 800 x 10G ports from the server clusters aggregated into 80 x 100G (or 8 x 1T) ports to the data center aggregation layer. And he needs eight of them. Lee says that the top 25 websites are probably in the same situation.

How could they need so much so quickly? Phenomenal growth in the user base. Facebook has over 300 million users. It took three years to get the first 100 million users, but only six months to get the last 100 million.

 Users (Million)  Time to Acquire
 100  36 months
 50  12 months
 100  9 months
 100  6 months

Regarding the arrival of 100G Ethernet, instead of being just in time, it might be, ”It’s about time. When can I get more?” Which points to the urgency of time to market for 100G solutions. Lee may find 640 x 100G ports to be cumbersome to manage, but he’ll probably be happy to get them instead of being forced to use 6,400 10G ports.

Lee also alluded to the challenge of implementing Layer 3 at such high speeds. The issues surrounding upper-layer services at high-speeds, whether 10G, 100G or 1000G, are complex and will require breakthroughs in technology and creativity. Exciting times are ahead.

Donn Lee’s presentation via EETimes.com: http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1701276884?bclid=1622640422&bctid=40363249001


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