400 Gb/s Ethernet: What Does It Mean for Storage?

By Henry Newman

The IEEE has released the 400 Gbit/sec (50 GB/sec) standard for Ethernet.  Once again the Ethernet interconnect bar has been raised higher than any other networking connection and is now a factor of 4x over what we have today.

Another way to think about this is that it is 10 Gb/sec over what we have today for PCIe bus bandwidth, with the PCIe 3.0 bus on Intel chips at 40 lane at 1 Gb/sec per lane. 400 Gb/sec Ethernet is targeted initially at switch interconnects, which should be no surprise because that is where the targets were for 10/40 and 100 Gbit/sec to start.

With 400 there is a new stake in the ground, which is even faster than what the FCIA has set for fibre channel performance.  Inter-switch connectivity at 50 Gb/sec is going to allow, for example, 128 high performance SSDs (400 MB/sec write performance) to replicate to other devices.  I still think no matter what anyone else says that in the future we’ll see local storage connectivity with something like SAS and then groups of storage connected via Ethernet.  

The reason is simple economics.  Ethernet development has more vendors, more chips are made and the market is far larger from your TV to routers in the cloud and it is not likely the volume will change that much. This is true even though a standard for gigabit Wi-Fi very recently came out  –  this is most likely not going be fast enough for most high speed applications either at home or the office as network connectivity gets faster. 

Right now I am stuck at 50 MB/sec download speed with my cable company. That’s the fastest home service I can buy for now.  I think over the next few years this is going to change and it already has in many major markets. This is going to drive Ethernet volumes and performance, and though I have not seen them on the market I suspect that 10 GbE Wi-Fi routers are on the horizon, maybe even in 2014.  I do not think that Ethernet dominance is going to change anytime soon.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

This article was originally published on April 07, 2014