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Gigabit Ethernet Bonding for 100 GigE Wan
Clever new DWDM design bonds multiple 10 GigE wavelength services to create a 100 Gbps long distance network.

By: John Shepler

Technology has an insatiable appetite for computing resources. Processor throughput, memory, storage and communications bandwidth are in no danger of going out of demand anytime soon. The problem is that we're pushing the limits of what we can do with our conventional architectures sooner than applications would like. In the case of CPU throughput, multiple parallel processors let us increase the Megaflop throughput easier than trying to up the MHz of the processors. Terabytes of disk storage are easier to create by adding drives rather than making bigger platters.

Paralleling Transmission Lines to Increase Bandwidth
The same principle of parallel processing works to increase bandwidth. T1 line bonding is a common way to increase WAN bandwidth by multiples of the standard 1.5 Mbps. The next logical service increment is T3 or DS3 service at 45 Mbps, but that generally requires fiber optic transmission lines that aren't universally available. It can also be considerably more expensive if all you need is 3 to 10 Mbps.

But what if you need massive bandwidth even beyond what is available on fiber optic line service? How about 100 Gigabit Ethernet as a WAN network? That's a tough order to fill, as the fastest Ethernet WAN services generally available run at 10 Gbps. On the SONET side, OC48 is a typical backbone service. But that's just 2.5 Gbps. OC192 has a transmission speed of 9.953 Mbps, basically a match for 10 Gig-E.

Now 100 Gbps WANs are Realistic
So how do you get to that next level of 100 Gigabits per second today? Using similar principles to increasing WAN speeds by bonding T1 lines together. Take 10 available 10 GigE wavelength services and use them as a parallel bundle to achieve a total throughput of 100 GigE. In effect, Gigabit bonding. The beauty of this approach is that it doesn't require an order of magnitude transmission speed increase. You can get 100 Gigabit Ethernet with today's networks.

Well, actually you do need some specialized equipment that's just in the demonstration stage. In fact the first demonstration of this approach by the developers, Finisar, Infinera, Internet2, Level 3 Communications and the University of California at Santa Cruz, was a 4,000 Km link from Tampa, Florida to Houston, Texas and back again. The clever design approach uses DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) to create bonded wavelengths called "super lambdas." In this demo system, a single chip provides lane alignment and packet ordering.

So who needs 100 Gigabyte Ethernet WANs? This kind of bandwidth may eventually become the norm for HDTV networks, video production, astronomy, seismology, telemedicine, supercomputing and research including real-time simulations. Corporate LANs are already filling up 10 Gbps LANs and 100 Gbps LANs will be here before we know it. WAN bandwidths are going to have to increase to keep up or become the irritating bottleneck that limits system performance. In fact, how long will it be until the next demonstration bonds 100 wavelengths to create a Tbps long distance network?

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