The Ethernet standard currently tops out at a staggering 100 Gbps, which requires four 25 Gbps lanes. That’s apparently not fast enough for the folks who build servers, data centers, and high-performance computing solutions, because the IEEE is inviting the industry to weigh in on the next version of the networking spec. The standards body is forecasting bandwidth demands in 2015 to be 10 times higher than what they were in 2010 and another order of magnitude higher in 2020. No wonder a faster standard is in the works.
According to CNet’s coverage, the industry is split on whether it favors a maximum speed of 400 GBps or 1 Tbps. 400 Gbps is "technically and economically feasible," says chair of the High-Speed Ethernet Consensus group John D’Ambrosia. That speed is reportedly backed by networking hardware companies, while the 1 Tbps target is coveted by their customers. D’Ambrosia says hitting 1 Tbps wouldn’t be pretty and that it could require as many as 80 separate physical connections for a full-duplex implementation.
The faster standard will be for servers, of course. Good old Gigabit Ethernet seems firmly entrenched on desktops and notebooks, especially given the comparatively slow speed of most Internet connections.
GigE’s 1 Gbps transfer rate should be sufficient for most needs. However, it doesn’t look all that impressive next to the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. 802.11ac hardware is available now and enables transfer rates up to 1.3 Gbps under ideal conditions. That’s due to be topped up by WiGig, which promises 7 Gbps speeds over distances of 30-60 feet. Perhaps it’s time for PCs to start making the transition to 10-gigabit Ethernet. Gotta keep up with the Joneses.