Data centres preparing for 400G connections


Most data centres today use either 40 or 100 Gigabit Ethernet to transmit data to each other, although the 100G network is relatively new and 10G is still prevalent in some parts of the industry. 

But even before most data centres have upgraded to 100G interconnects, some companies are developing and testing technologies for 400G networks.

AT&T, for example, plans to test 400G networks early next year. The company says it intends to be the “first in the industry to demonstrate a 400 GbE service” across its production network.

Rick Hubbard, senior vice president, AT&T network product management, says: “Although there have been efforts focused on 400 Gigabit Ethernet viability and industry standards over the past couple of years, we are excited to be the first to implement a pilot.

“400GbE has the potential to transform how our largest retail and wholesale customers manage their networks today.”

The organisation setting the technical standards for data centre interconnection technology is the IEEE, which is currently looking into the various innovations for making data go faster. One of the solutions the IEEE is looking at for inter-data centre connections is called Pam-4.

And AT&T is not the only one racing towards a 400G future even before technical standards have been finalised.

SCinet – a supercomputing collaboration forum for private enterprises and governmental organisations – says it will be providing a 400G solution to ECI, a network provider.

“The 400G blade is designed to transport data with higher spectral efficiency and industry-leading port density, resulting in reduced rack space and less power consumption,” says the company in a statement.

Meanwhile, Coriant says its high-speed connectivity solution, which it says can support 400G and 1 Tbs, will underpin SCinet interconnect solution.

“SCinet is a highly sophisticated, high-performance network built upon cutting-edge technologies and the strategic collaboration of industry-recognized leaders,” said Jim Stewart, co-chair of the SC16p planning committee’s wide-area network transport team.

“We are pleased to have Coriant as a key participant in SCinet this year as we further advance the performance of our network and empower more robust and agile end-user services.”

And a company called Keysight unveiled a range of test solutions for 400G data centre interconnects some months ago, at least one of which supports a system developed by Adva Optical Networking, says it has demonstrated 400G over 100 kilometres using its Pam-4 transmission system.

Nicklas Eiselt, of the Technical University of Denmark and a developer on the project, says: “The uniqueness of our Pam-4 setup is that it enables a cost-effective and low-power high-speed data center interconnect solution by significantly extending the reach of short reach 400G Pam-4 solutions, which are currently under standardization at IEEE 802.3bs.”