What’s all this talk about a rate debate?

By Paul Nikolich

By Paul Nikolich, Chairman, IEEE 802 LMSC

802 LMSC Standards: market relevant, high quality and transparent– what a combination!

One of the characteristics that distinguish the 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee (LMSC) is its ability to respond to the needs of the market it serves.  802 LMSC has been producing technical interoperability standards at the rate of about 10 per year for the past 25 years, but recently the production has stepped up to about 15 per year.  We are on target to produce 15 standards in 2014.  Amazing stuff.  Yet some people think 802 is too slow and needs to change.  I say balderdash. 

The 802 community has consistently demonstrated its ability to serve the market in a timely manner.  Yes, it typically takes about 3 years to complete a standards development project , from the germ of an idea to ratification—but when it is done, the 802 specifications ensures interoperability across all suppliers.  Furthermore, under the correct technology, market and economic conditions, the 802 specified interfaces meet a sweet-spot that allows innovative low cost, high performance implementations that result in explosive deployments of innovative products and services that were never imagined when the project was started, as demonstrated by the 802.1, 802.3 and 802.11 market successes.

Sometimes when there is a well formed proposal with substantial consensus, a project can be completed within a year.  Conversely, without a well formed proposal with multiple competing interests, it takes a longer time to build industry consensus and a project may take 5 years to complete.  Regardless of project duration there is one thing the customers for 802 standards can be sure of—they are of the highest quality, receiving intense peer review throughout the drafting and balloting process, from hundreds of individual subject matter experts participating from around the world.

Which brings me to the subject at hand—the ‘rate debate’ of what is next currently under way in the industry.  The 802.3 community has identified a clear market need for 802.3 25Gbit/s Ethernet interface speeds, which deviates from the typical progression of functionality you see in 802.3, which I’ll generalize as faster or further or both.  This community has identified a need for a lower speed interface targeted at a particular application scenario in the data centers, but given all of the projects currently underway, there are those debating what the next rate for server connections will be after 25Gb/s. 

And the 802.3 Working Group provides an excellent environment for the debate to begin…and end with a ratified standard. Yes, there will be rigorous debate as to what is the ‘correct’ rate, and I’m confident the group will quickly converge on a solution.  The 802 community has a long history of engaging in structured debate following a well-developed process that ensures fairness, open-ness and transparency such that all interested parties have an opportunity to make their case.  I encourage the debate to begin.  The sooner we get started, the sooner we’ll be finished.  Then the market will determine if we’ve met their needs.  I’m betting we will.