The last few years have been exceptionally active for Ethernet, with new speeds and specifications debuting at a rapid rate. According to John D'Ambrosia, Chairman of the Ethernet Alliance, the next few years look to be equally exciting.
In an analyst webinar on state of Ethernet, D'Ambrosia noted that the last few years have seen the debut of multiple Ethernet standards including 2.5, 5, 25 and 50 Gigabit Ethernet. One of the next big areas for Ethernet is likely to be the automotive industry.
"The ecosystem continues to grow and people continue to use Ethernet in different places," D'Ambrosia said.
D'Ambrosia said that in the coming years, there could hundreds of millions of cars equipped with Ethernet to hand communication. Different standard are already being developed to help make sure that Ethernet is ready for automotive. Among the efforts is the PAM (Pulse Amplitude Modulation)-4 signalling effort.
For much of Ethernet's history it has followed a particular path for new speeds, which initially delivers a 10x improvement in bandwidth, with 10,100,1000,10 GbE being the obvious examples. D'Ambrosia noted that the 10x model is no longer what is happening, which makes it harder to know what the next major bandwidth bump will be.
"10 Gig was very successful and as much as many people thought that 100 Gigabit Ethernet would be the next big thing, what they actually wanted was 40 gig," D'Ambrosia said.
So, what's the next speed for Ethernet going to be?
D'Ambrosia said 8x100 Gig, for 800 Gigabit per second Ethernet seems like a logical direction. He noted that Ethernet is not just about going fast, but about going far. Currently there are some capabilities that allow 10 Gig Ethernet to go as far as 80 km. That said D'Ambrosia noted that for 50 Gig signalling, the maximum distance to date is only 10 km. At 100 gig signalling the maximum distance is only 500 meters.
"Frankly I'm not sure what the next Ethernet rate will be - is it 800 Gigabits per second or is it 1.6 Terabits per seconds, those fights have yet to happen," he said. "I do feel somewhat confident that it will be one of those rates and I don't think we'll have a 1 Terabit Ethernet standard."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.