Enterprises will soon be able to speed their Ethernet networks by up to five times their current speeds without having to replace their existing infrastructures thanks to a new networking standard announced this week. The standard, officially known as IEEE 802.3bz, defines 2.5 and 5 Gigabit Ethernet speeds over the existing installed base of twisted pair copper cabling.
The new networking protocol will help companies continue to use their older 1000BASE-T networks while still significantly boosting speeds for their Ethernet infrastructures. That should be a major boon for enterprises that need to upgrade aging systems, but lack the ability to tear out and replace the cabling of their existing networks.
Five Times the Speed
Although Wi-Fi may be the networking standard of choice in the consumer world, Ethernet infrastructure continues to rule the world of enterprise networking. And in many cases, the growth of Wi-Fi technology is one of the key drivers behind the need for faster Ethernet systems, as enterprises look for ways to increase the speed of data delivery to Wi-Fi endpoints.
The issue has become particularly acute with the arrival of the Wi-Fi 802.11ac Wave 2 technology two years ago. “As new 802.11ac Wave 2 wireless technology is being deployed the need to offload more and more data at higher and higher speeds from the wireless to the wired network has never been so critical,” Sachin Gupta, vice president of product management at Cisco, wrote in a blog post about the announcement.
Gupta said that with the advent of the new Ethernet standard, enterprises will be able to increase the speeds of their networks by up to five times just by upgrading their networks’ equipment, such as network switches, something that is much less painful than having to rip out miles of cabling.
Minimal Cost To Upgrade
The standard is the work of NBASE-T, an industry wide alliance created two years ago for the specific purpose of developing just such a standard. The specifications have already resulted in the design and deployment of a variety of products ranging from chips and switches to cabling solutions and test equipment, the alliance said in a statement.
As a result, the alliance has enabled an extensive ecosystem of products and rapid proliferation of the technology in advance of the approval. of the standards, which happened last week. Products developed using the NBASE-T specification are expected to be compatible with the IEEE standard and require only minor software upgrades.
“Last quarter, NBASE-T switch and access point ports surged significantly as enterprises began to upgrade their campus networks to speeds beyond 1G,” said Alan Weckel, vice president of Ethernet switch market research at Dell’Oro Group. “There will be a sizable upgrade cycle around NBASE-T technology with robust growth expected over the next several years. As a result, we expect 2017 NBASE-T port shipments to exceed three million ports.”