The IEEE's Higher Speed Study Group may gift us with a dual-standard, much faster EthernetAs 1Gbps networks become standard, the Higher Speed Study Group (HSSG) recently approved a Project Authorization Request (PAR) for a new standard, dubbed IEEE 802.3ba, which will propel Ethernet to speeds up to 100Gbps.

There were several possible speeds initially discussed: 40, 80, 100, and 120Gbps were all considered possible standard options. Eventually there were just two. This caused the HSSG to stall in its deliberation. The two separate camps wanted two separate standards: the 40Gbps camp who were more interested in faster server-switch applications, and the 100Gbps camp that wanted to pursue a more robust network backbone. Either way, higher speeds require more expensive and power-hungry equipment.

Without a clear majority vote, the HSSG standardized both the 40Gbps and 100Gbps speeds as part of the IEEE 802.3ba specifications. Different physical specs would be used for different speeds. 40Gbps links would be up to one meter long for switch backplanes, 10 meters for copper cabling and 100 meters for fiber optics. The 100Gbps specifications call for 10- and 40-kilometer links over single-mode fiber.

This is apparently the first time that an Ethernet standards group has approved two different speeds for a single standard. If the IEEE approves it, the standard could be fully completed by 2010, with equipment support following shortly after.