The Path To 800 Gigabit Ethernet Revealed

Sponsored Feature: It’s a universal and immutable truth that data volumes continue to ramp up at eye-wateringly high rates. Published in January 2023, Sandvine’s 2023 Global Internet Phenomena Report, suggests that international Internet traffic volume increased 23 percent in 2022. The study, which looked at usage data from more than 177 service providers worldwide, reveals that Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, Netflix, and Microsoft still generate almost half of all Internet traffic, with Google and Netflix racking up for the largest volumes. Media streaming, together with sustained growth in traffic across app categories, including gaming, cloud, VPNs, marketplaces, and video/audio conferencing, were found to account for much of the demand for bandwidth.

Other “webscale” companies like cloud service providers, providers of Internet exchange points (IXPs) and colocation providers, are facing even greater bandwidth demands. Equinix’s most recent Global Interconnection Index projects that global interconnection bandwidth will grow at a 40 percent five-year CAGR, reaching 27,762 TB/sec – equivalent to 110 zettabytes of data exchanged annually.

These hikes in web traffic have driven a series of step changes in the technology powering carrier-grade connectivity. In the late 1990s, we witnessed the arrival of Gigabit Ethernet and speeds have been cranking up rapidly ever since. Today, we are now firmly in the era of “Terabit Ethernet”, characterized by speeds that top 100 Gb/sec. And continuing this momentum in the bandwidth stakes, the 2022 technology roadmap from the Ethernet Alliance has defined speeds of 800 Gb/sec and 1.6 Tbit/sec.

Speed And Sustainability Rule The Day

Emerging cloud infrastructure providers are coming under sustained pressure to upgrade their networks to support ever-more data hungry subscriber services, in addition to retaining the capacity to dial up or down capacity on demand. However, carriers also need to square the circle of delivering this higher bandwidth just as the energy crisis bites into their profitability and hits them with significantly higher electricity bills.

The importance of reducing energy consumption for carrier equipment is being increasingly recognized by manufacturers of Terabit-scale Ethernet kit, and progress is being made in this area. Nokia has recently unveiled 800 Gb/sec  IP routers, which are based on the telecom giant’s fifth generation of high-performance IP routing silicon, dubbed FP5. Equipment based on this platform is billed as not only being faster, but also greener. Nokia claims its FP5 network processors can drive down power consumption per bit by as much as 75 percent.

“There are more advantages to 800 Gigabit Ethernet than just data speed. By using this kind of technology, we are demonstrating a three-quarters power saving, and that is important knowing that power has become so expensive. And of course, another advantage is this equipment also gives you investment protection,” said Mark Vanderhaegen, Nokia Webscale account executive.

Nokia says that not only does its FP5-based IP routers reduce power consumption it also increases system capacity. For example, a 33 percent capacity increase can be realized within the same power envelope. The company reckons that having high density 800 Gb/sec support from day one provides an additional 25 percent to 43 percent power savings over 400 Gb/sec and extends system longevity.

Enhancements of IP routing silicon are also helping to boost security in terabit Ethernet devices. Against a heightened threat landscape, this area represents a growing concern for carriers as the confidentiality and integrity of data flowing through their networks is being increasingly scrutinized. While businesses are focused on preventing loss of revenue and reputational damage, governments are specially concerned with the growing number of attacks aimed at critical infrastructure, seemingly by sophisticated nation-state actors. It’s for this reason that Nokia’s FP5-based silicon has embedded security built-in to the silicon allowing for ubiquitous threat detection across all traffic with no performance hit.

Many encryption options provide basic mechanisms for encrypting traffic flowing through Communication Service Provider (CSP) networks, but Nokia argues that none before the current generation of silicon architectures have provided the combination of low latency, simplicity and transport flexibility required for universal CSP deployment. Its FP5-based silicon changes this with an advanced embedded encryption technique that can be turned on with enough performance headroom to protect all traffic.

NL-ix Takes The Plunge

This combination of increased bandwidth, together with optimization of power consumption and improved security were key considerations for NL-ix, a major European Internet exchange for peering, routing, IP transit and transport of Internet traffic, when it conducted a major upgrade of its Amsterdam infrastructure in 2022.

The company, headquartered in The Netherlands, is deemed an important element of the Internet infrastructure by the Dutch Government because its interconnects the 100 most important datacenters in Europe and so underpins Internet provisioning for thousands of businesses and millions of consumers in Northwestern Europe. NL-ix announced in October 2022 that it was deploying Nokia’s 7750 SR-s IP router platforms, powered by Nokia’s FP5 silicon. The deployment has enabled NL-ix to rollout 800GE access and interconnection services for its cloud provider and national research and education network customers.

“NL-ix is readying itself for another 100 percent increase in traffic and 800GE will play an important part in this. It is the more economic and more sustainable choice, and we believe it will be the standard for big content networks, international clouds and larger ISPs.” the company said.

The new infrastructure delivers Internet speeds of up to 800 Gb/sec, which make Amsterdam the fastest Internet hub in the world. NL-ix reported that it redesigned the Amsterdam component of its pan-European network to cope with constant traffic growth and to make it more energy efficient. The company noted that international Internet traffic to Amsterdam exceeded 100 TB/sec in 2022 for the first time, following growth of over 20 percent for the last five years. It is one of only four global metropolitan markets to have reached these traffic levels, underlining its position as a primary Internet hub.

In combination with this significant boost in bandwidth capacity, NL-ix estimates that the FP5-based IP routing equipment uses about one eighth (12.5 percent) of the power per Gigabit of other equipment (0.1065 Watts per Gb versus 0.9115 Watts). Implementing the new technology quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively required a simplification of the legacy network. So the upgraded datacenters now have direct fiber connections to the core switches, which enables the use of “grey lasers,” eliminating the need for power-hungry optical transmission equipment.

This reconfiguration, according to NL-ix, reduces the cost per customer connection and further lowers overall power consumption. To directly connect the datacenters to the cores of the NL-ix network, 3200 optical fiber pairs were deployed across Amsterdam via a range of partners.

NL-ix will implement this new technology in Frankfurt in February, with Paris and Marseille to follow soon after. More hubs in the NL-ix pan-European network will be upgraded in the following phase.

“This historic step to 800 GE by NL-ix makes Amsterdam Europe’s first ‘Next-Gen Data Hub’, said Stijn Grove, Director of the Dutch Data Center Association. “It strengthens the position of the Netherlands as a Digital Gateway to Europe and as a high-capacity Internet hub, while bringing down total power consumption significantly. It’s a great example of the new economy that is both digital and sustainable.”

“We have added lanes and increased the speed on the digital highway of the Internet while at the same time we save energy.” added Jan Hoogenboom, NL-ix CEO and Founder.” With the sort of speed, sustainability and security that Nokia’s FP5-based IP routers now deliver, it’s perhaps just a matter of time before other European network operators follow suit.

You can hear more about Nokia’s Webscale networking solutions by clicking here.

Sponsored by Nokia.

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