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High-Speed Ethernet

OFC 2022 Top Takeaway: 800G Is Picking Up Speed to Meet Hyperscaler Growth


OFC 2022 has brought industry players back together at the premier global event for optical communications and networking, hosting 8,000 participants and 430 exhibiting companies. Read about key highlights and takeaways from the event.

What a feeling to be back at OFC 2022 and see folks across the optical communications community face-to-face. Collaboration is such a big part of what our industry is all about and it was so refreshing to get back to it in such a meaningful way.

Not that these have been lost years by any means.

A walk of the Optical Fiber Communications Conference exhibit floor quickly revealed that despite COVID hurdles, big progress has been made toward 800 Gigabit high-speed Ethernet (800G).

Whereas the last in-person OFC event held in 2020 set the stage for 800G, it seemed like the technology arrived all at once for the 2022 show as related news, demos and enthusiasm were on display at every turn.

Hyperscalers driving a burgeoning 800G market

In response to insatiable bandwidth and performance demands, hyperscalers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft are driving rapid evolution of the Ethernet backbone that underpins the cloud. They are leading the transition to 800G density to cost effectively handle new data center workload requirements.

Not only is internet traffic increasing multi-fold, but there are also increasing demands for high throughput and ultra-low latency.

The increased traffic is coming from new applications such as AI/ML, the adoption of SaaS applications and new work-from-home realities. The pandemic also caused an explosion in streaming services and gaming as the home became the family’s primary entertainment venue. If we’re to believe Mark Zuckerberg, the Metaverse is just around the corner, promising fully immersive experiences.

Suddenly, it seems high-performing 800G networks can’t come fast enough.

800G enabling cost effective network expansion

Hyperscalers are using a financial magnifying glass as they make plans to meet growth. Anything that can help reduce the cost per bit is worth millions of dollars in OpEx savings.

While they can meet the demand for doubled traffic by adding more 100G or 400G circuits, that would also increase the complexity of the network, effectively doubling the hundreds of thousands of servers already deployed.

Instead, we are seeing a path from 400G to 800G density to double the quantity of data that switches can carry while significantly reducing the cost per bit. By reducing network complexity, 800G reduces the cost of operation. That’s another factor making 800G Ethernet technology so attractive to the market.

To get 800G out of tradeshow booths and into production networks requires advancements across the infrastructure ecosystem. Here are some of the top developments we took note of from the show:

  • Switch interconnects: It wasn’t long ago that only two vendors had 800G optical transceivers. One, Intel Silicon Photonics, used Spirent 800G Solution to validate interoperability of its 800G transceiver with 12.8tbps Ethernet switches using four 800G transceivers. At OFC this year, half a dozen transceivers were demonstrated, including eOptolink and Source Photonics. On the DAC cable front, now we have offerings from multiple vendors. An interoperability demo at the Ethernet Alliance booth used cables from several vendors.

  • Ethernet switches: Equipment manufacturers are working hard to get 800G switches ready. As switches migrate from 56G per lane electrical connectivity to 112G, the cost per bit goes down. Multiplied by 256 lanes, these 25.6Tb and 51.2 Tb switch ASICs are key enabling technologies for high-speed Ethernet since they double the switch and data density. The new 112G electrical lane technology is real and gaining traction. Switches were highlighted by the Ethernet Alliance, at several booths and in announcements, such as Broadcom’s 25.6Tb ASIC. A multivendor interoperability demo was hosted by the Ethernet Alliance that successfully showed interoperability of 112G technologies. We didn’t see any 1x800G publicly demonstrated but there was a range of 802.3ck electrical lane technology at various sub-rates.

Testing 800G to ensure interoperability

As the density doubles and faster Ethernet rates are developed, early adopters need to test and validate supporting solutions and technologies. Multivendor interoperability validation is also essential.

Spirent’s industry-first 800G test platform was in the mix at OFC alongside the company’s latest 400G technology test solution. Our comprehensive, end-to-end solution platforms ensure interoperability across a broad range of vendor solutions and validate forwarding performance, latency, MAC capacity and functional capabilities in an integrated approach.

With traffic loads that emulate the real world, Spirent’s new 400G and 800G solutions accelerate deployment timelines and ensure the cloud’s Ethernet backbone supports massive growth, meets customer expectations, and keeps costs in check.

See industry-first Ethernet validation in action at OFC 2022.

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Asim Rasheed

Senior Product Manager, HSE

Asim Rasheed is the Senior Product Manager for Spirent’s High-Speed Ethernet products. In his current role, he is responsible for managing the next-generation network and infrastructure testing product lines and building partnerships within the Ethernet ecosystem to support its continued expansion by providing vendor-neutral test solutions. Prior to Spirent, Asim worked at multiple network equipment manufacturing and test & measurement companies, managing software and hardware product lines across Routing/Switching, Security, Broadband Access, and hardware products. To connect with Asim, please go to LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/masimrasheed/.