The future direction of networking technology has been laid out by the Ethernet Alliance recently with the release of the organisation's 2018 Ethernet Roadmap.
This document is the industry's only publicly-accessible roadmap covering the growth of Ethernet technology and is designed to help professionals navigate what is an increasingly diverse and complex landscape.
It plots the growth of the technology from previous 10Mbps standards through to today's 1-400Gbps speeds and even looks to the future of 1.6 terabit speeds, with a focus on existing and potential applications, as well as highlighting essential specifications, modules and medias that networking professionals will need to be aware of when planning deployments.
John D'Ambrosia, senior principal engineer at Huawei and chairman of the Ethernet Alliance, explained that when organisations plan networking deployments, they have more choice than ever about which path they go down, so the new roadmap should help make things clearer.
"A rising number of increasingly diverse technologies and applications are driving the growth and expansion of the family of Ethernet solutions, so we're beyond the days of just a single Ethernet roadmap,”" he stated.
"As the leading industry voice for Ethernet, we're ready to fulfill our mission of supporting Ethernet as new application spaces and markets begin capitalising on the advantages it offers, both today and into tomorrow’s terabit-enabled future."
The next steps for the global Ethernet landscape, in terms of standards, will be the development of 800Gbps speeds and 1.6Tbps speeds, which the roadmap projects should become available by around 2022. Initially, these technologies will primarily be of use to service providers offering fixed, mobile and colocation technologies. The Ethernet Alliance observed that these firms have for decades been the key drivers for higher networking speeds.
Demands for router connections, client-side tools for optical transport network equipment and wireless needs have all helped push Ethernet connectivity to deliver faster transfer rates across longer distances, and with global demand from consumers for high-bandwidth activity such as video streaming continually increasing, this shows no sign of changing.
However, it will not just be in applications that demand blazingly-fast speeds where Ethernet will have a key role to play in the coming years. The roadmap highlighted a range of lower-speed scenarios where strong connectivity and interoperability will be essential. This includes automation technologies in locations ranging from smart homes and offices to heavy industry deployments in harsh environments.
To meet these needs, the Ethernet community is working to create a single standard for 10Mbps operations that include Power-over-Ethernet capabilities using a single twisted pair. This aims to consolidate an environment that currently includes a range of legacy protocols - something that will be increasingly important in the coming years, as demand for these spaces is expected to reach 165 million ports a year by 2019.