Huawei chip partnership looks toward Ethernet hitting 400 gigabits

The router maker demonstrated a line card with chip maker Xilinx that's intended for 400-Gigabit Ethernet

By , IDG News Service |  Unified Communications

Designing a 400GbE line card today calls for some assumptions that may have to change by the time the standard is finished. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) hasn't even formed a task group yet to hash out the options for a standard. John D'Ambrosia, who heads the 802.3 400Gbps Study Group that's been exploring what's needed in the new standard, expects a task group to kick off later this month. D'Ambrosia thinks the standard probably won't be finished until the first half of 2017, while others say it may come in 2016.

Among the questions the task group will grapple with is what kinds of smaller connections to add together to reach 400Gbps. The Huawei-Xilinx prototype uses 16 channels of 25Gbps, but the companies say they could use other configurations depending on how the standards process goes.

Though Huawei may be alone in showing an actual 400GbE prototype at this stage, other vendors also have their eyes on the next jump in speed. Juniper Networks is developing an ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) with 400Gbps capability that should be ready for 400GbE once the standard's ready, according to Stephen Turner, director of product partnerships at Juniper's routing group. Alcatel-Lucent has not announced any products for 400GbE but has other 400Gbps gear that's commercially deployed by France Telecom-Orange. Cisco Systems likewise hasn't announced any 400GbE technology, but last year the company introduced its nPower network processor with support for 400Gbps throughput.

Getting out ahead of standards and forming industry relationships such as the Xilinx partnership are key to Huawei's role as a major global vendor of telecommunications gear, Adams said. While the company in Shenzhen, China, once simply followed standards, it now participates in standards bodies and hopes to influence them, he said.

Huawei is the third-largest maker of routers for carriers' core networks, behind Cisco and Juniper, Dell'Oro Group's Tamboli said.

About one-third of Huawei's total revenue comes from its home market of China, with another third coming from Europe, according to Adams. The company is also a major player in other parts of Asia and in Africa.

In the U.S., Huawei has faced stiff opposition from federal regulators and lawmakers who have said it has links to the Chinese government that raise the danger of "back-door" product vulnerabilities. Huawei has denied having close government ties or shipping compromised products. The company is at an early stage of market development in the U.S. and is looking at developing relationships that would allow it to compete, Adams said.

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