The IEEE standard for 400 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) was approved in December 2017. And prior to that, 400GbE had already garnered some attention. For instance, in March 2017 AT&T was able to establish a 400GbE connection between New York and Washington, D.C.
400GbE is four times as fast as 100 gig Ethernet, and it offers an economically attractive price per port and better power efficiency.
During 2018, several big networking vendors announced their forays into 400GbE.
Juniper Networks claimed the prize for first place, announcing in July that it planned to infuse 400GbE innovations in its PTX IP transport series, QFX data center series, and its MX WAN series. The company said it would start rolling out the updates in the second half of 2018 and into the first half of 2019. Bikash Koley, CTO of Juniper Networks, said the demand for 400 Gigabit Ethernet is being driven by a need for more cost-efficient packet transport to handle increasing bandwidth demands from video; to deal with the east-west traffic in data centers and inter-data center traffic; and to prepare for 5G.
In October, Cisco joined the party, announcing its 400GbE switches that target hyperscale cloud providers, large enterprise data centers, and telecommunications providers moving to 5G. Specifically, Cisco announced two new Nexus 3400-S fixed switches for webscale customers and two new Nexus 9000 switches for its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) architecture generally used by large enterprises and service providers. All four are backward compatible with Cisco’s 100G platforms.
Also in October, Arista Networks unveiled a new switching line that supports 400GbE. The new 400G fixed systems are targeted at hyperscale cloud networks and data centers that need more bandwidth for technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and serverless computing. The Arista 7060X4 Series also includes optics that provide backward compatibility for 100G ports. This gives customers flexibility in building high density leaf-spine networks, including 100G connectivity to servers and 400G connectivity in the leaf-spine fabric.
On Arista’s third quarter earnings call, Andreas Bechtolsheim, Arista’s chairman and chief development officer, said that “400 gig Ethernet is the next step in the delivery of Ethernet,” and the technology showcases Arista’s ability to bring new switch silicon to market that is fully supported with the company’s EOS software. However, he warned that the uptake of 400G will take some time. “We do expect to see a lot of 400 gig qualification activity in the first half of 2019,” Bechtolsheim said. “The 400G ramp in 2019 is also constrained by the volume of 400 gig optics.”
Finally, Cisco ended the year announcing it would pay $660 million for privately-held Luxtera, a semiconductor company that uses silicon photonics to build integrated optics capabilities for hyperscalers, enterprise data centers, and service providers. Cisco said it would integrate Luxtera’s technology into its 100GbE and 400GbE portfolios. As system port capacity increases to 400GbE and beyond, optics plays an increasingly important role in addressing density and power requirements, according to the company.