On the afternoon of March 21, Beijing time, a display by network supplier Huawei and chip manufacturer Xilinx last week marked the industry’s enthusiasm for 400g Ethernet.

At the optical fiber communication Exhibition (OFC) in San Francisco, Huawei and Xilinx showed off an Ethernet routing line card with an alleged processing capacity of 400gbps. Although this is only a prototype product and Huawei does not intend to sell pre standard products, this display shows that the two manufacturers have been gearing up for the next version of Ethernet, said chuck Adams, an outstanding standards strategist at Huawei’s U.S. R & D center.

Carrier connections that do not use Ethernet have inspired 400gbps. Manufacturers say they already have some types of 400gbps technology on sale or under development, and are ready to ship 400g Ethernet equipment after the completion of the standard. Some ongoing 400gbps development may be to influence the final Ethernet standard, said Alam tamboli, an analyst at Dell’Oro group.

Ethernet is the mainstay of enterprise network. Most operators traditionally use other technologies, but Ethernet also plays an important role in their networks today.

As servers, computers and mobile terminals transmit more data on the Internet, operators and data center owners are constantly asking for faster links. Like all new rate (Technology) applications, the migration from 100gbps to 400gbps begins with the operator’s backbone network. But today, the demand for speed in large data centers is closely followed. This makes manufacturers eager to serve at least two markets.

Huawei and Xilinx laid the foundation of 400gbe at the optical fiber communication Exhibition on Wednesday. They announced their long-term partnership and roadmap. Its first prototype line card is based on Xilinx’s mass-produced FPGA (field programmable gate array) and adopts a 28 nm manufacturing process for use in other systems. According to Gilles Garcia, director of Xilinx cable communication division, in the test, the prototype line card has been able to realize 400gbps traffic processing capacity with low power consumption and no packet loss. A prototype product expected to be launched next year will use only one chip manufactured using a 20 nm process, so it will require less space and energy, he said.

Once the standards are completed, the two companies will be closer to shipping products thanks to early development work, Adams said.

Today, designing a 400gbe line card requires some assumptions that may change when the standard is completed. The Institute of electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has not even set up a working group to finalize standard options. John d’ambrosia, who heads the 802.3400gbps research group to explore what the new standard needs, expects the working group to open later this month. D’ambrosia believes that the standard may not be completed before the first half of 2017, although some people say it will be completed in 2016.

One of the issues that the working group will overcome is which small connections are superimposed to reach 400gbps. The Huawei Xilinx prototype uses 16 25mbps channels, but the two companies say they can use other configurations, depending on the standard process.

Although Huawei may be the only manufacturer to show the actual 400gbe prototype at this stage, other manufacturers are also concerned about the next leap in speed. Juniper network is developing an ASIC (application specific integrated circuit) with 400gbps capability and should be ready for 400gbe and wait for the standard to be ready, said Stephen Turner, director of product partners of juniper routing group. Alcatel lucent has not released any 400gbe products, but other 400g devices are commercially deployed in France Telecom orange. Cisco has not yet released any 400gbe technology, but last year the company launched an nPower network processor that supports 400gbps throughput.

Moving ahead of standards and forming industry relationships, such as with Xilinx, is critical for Huawei, a major global telecommunications equipment supplier, Adams said. The Shenzhen based company, which used to just follow standards, is now involved in standard subjects and wants to influence them, he said.

Huawei is the third largest manufacturer of core network routers, after Cisco and juniper, said tamboli of Dell’Oro.

About a third of Huawei’s overall revenue comes from China’s domestic market and another third from Europe, Adams said. The company is also a major player in other parts of Asia and Africa.

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