Get Plugged in to Ethernet’s Next Era

By John D'Ambrosia

Today’s IEEE 802.3 Ethernet standard consists of 126 clauses and associated annexes that spans 8 sections or approximately 5600 pages.  The IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group produces these Ethernet standards, which are renowned for their high quality.  This work has been leveraged by a number of industry optical MSA’s.  The resulting portfolio of sta[i]ndard and non-standard Ethernet optical solutions, as well as currently approved projects underway within IEEE IEEE 802.3, spanning rates from 25 GbE to 400 GbE, as shown in Figure 1.  This figure illustrates the various Ethernet options available to an end user.   (Note – the name of the 80km PHYs is currently being debated within the IEEE P802.3cn Task Force.)

Figure 1- Ethernet Optics 25GbE and Above

Complementing the work in the IEEE, is the Ethernet Alliance.  The Alliance and its members take pride in proving out that these Ethernet standards and solutions can be implemented by multiple vendors, put together, and everything works!  Through its interoperability demonstrations at trade shows, such as OFC, multi-vendor plugfests, and its recent Power-over-Ethernet Certification Program, the Ethernet Alliance has been working to build industry confidence in the multi-vendor interoperability of the latest IEEE 802.3 standards and related products.

This week the Ethernet Alliance announced its latest plugfest targeting technologies supporting electrical and optical signaling for rates from 25 Gb/s to 400 Gb/s, that will support various ethernet solutions for 25GbE to 400 GbE.  To further complement the test matrix, members of the 100G Lambda Multisource Agreement (MSA) Group have also been invited to attend the plugfest.

Given the matrix shown in Figure 1, one can only imagine the challenges the engineers for the companies participating will face.  Having attended several of these events, I have to say with a matter of pride, that these events, organized by the Ethernet Alliance in conjunction with the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory, is perhaps the greatest service that we provide to the industry.  Allowing engineers to work in a secure confidential environment allows all parties to enable the interoperability that the industry has come to expect from Ethernet solutions.

Further details of the Ethernet Alliance Higher Speed Networking Plugfest can be found at  Companies interested in participating in the December event will need to join the Ethernet Alliance. Information regarding membership may be found at