With an increasing demand for networking speed and throughput performance within the datacenter and high performance computing clusters, the newly rebranded Ethernet Technology Consortium has announced a new 800 Gigabit Ethernet technology. Based upon many of the existing technologies that power contemporary 400 Gigabit Ethernet, the 800GBASE-R standard is looking to double performance once again, to feed ever-hungrier datacenters.

The recently-finalized standard comes from the Ethernet Technology Consortium, the non-IEEE, tech industry-backed consortium formerly known as the 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium. The group was originally created to develop 25, 50, and 100 Gigabit Ethernet technology, and while IEEE Ethernet standards have since surpassed what the consortium achieved, the consortium has stayed formed to push even faster networking speeds, and changing its name to keep with the times. Some of the biggest contributors and supporters of the ETC include Broadcom, Cisco, Google, and Microsoft, with more than 40 companies listed as integrators of its work. 

800 Gigabit Ethernet Block Diagram

As for their new 800 Gigabit Ethernet standard, at a high level 800GbE can be thought of as essentially a wider version of 400GbE. The standard is primarily based around using existing 106.25G lanes, which were pioneered for 400GbE, but doubling the number of total lanes from 4 to 8. And while this is a conceptually simple change, there is a significant amount of work involved in bonding together additional lanes in this fashion, which is what the new 800GbE standard has to sort out.

Diving in, the new 800GBASE-R specification defines a new Media Access Control (MAC) and a Physical Coding Sublayer (PCS), which in turn is built on top of two 400 GbE 2xClause PCS's to create a single MAC which operates at a combined 800 Gb/s. Each 400 GbE PCS uses 4 x 106.25 GbE lanes, which when doubled brings the total to eight lanes, which has been used to create the new 800 GbE standard. And while the focus is on 106.25G lanes, it's not a hard requirement; the ETC states that this architecture could also allow for larger groupings of slower lanes, such as 16x53.125G, if manufacturers decided to pursue the matter.

The 800 GbE PCS Flow Diagram

Focusing on the MAC itself, the ETC claims that 800 Gb Ethernet will inherit all of the previous attributes of the 400 GbE standard, with full-duplex support between two terminals, and with a minimum interpacket gap of 8-bit times. The above diagram depicts each 400 GbE with 16 x 10 b lanes, with each 400 GbE data stream transcoding and scrambling packet data separately, with a bonding control which synchronizes and muxes both PCS's together.

All told, the 800GbE standard is the latest step for an industry as a whole that is moving to Terabit (and beyond) Ethernet. And while those future standards will ultimately require faster SerDes to drive the required individual lane speeds, for now 800GBASE-R can deliver 800GbE on current generation hardware. All of which should be a boon for the standard's intended hyperscaler and HPC operator customers, who are eager to get more bandwidth between systems.

The Ethernet Technology Consortium outlines the full specifications of the 800 GbE on its website in a PDF. There's no information when we might see 800GbE in products, but as its largely based on existing technology, it should be a relatively short wait by datacenter networking standards. Though datacenter operators will probably have to pay for the luxury; with even a Cisco Nexus 400 GbE 16-port switch costing upwards of $11,000, we don't expect 800GbE to come cheap.

Related Reading

Source: Ethernet Technology Consortium
QSFP-DD Image Courtesy Optomind

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  • ryrynz - Friday, April 10, 2020 - link

    Not in your lifetime.
  • Guspaz - Thursday, April 9, 2020 - link

    Meanwhile, consumers still struggle to get faster than support for gigabit Ethernet. Despite multi-gigabit controllers now being available for less than a dollar, it's still exceptionally rare to see even 2.5G, let alone 10G. If you look at every single AM4 motherboard that Asus makes, of the 37, only 7 of them support 2.5G or faster, only 3 support 5G or faster, and only 2 support 10G and faster.

    All seven of these boards are also in their most expensive "ROG" lineup. It's not like the cheaper boards are relying on some integrated ethernet controller either, many of them have an Intel ethernet controller on an AMD board, so the cost difference to the BOM for a 2.5G chip should be relatively minimal.
  • 06GTOSC - Thursday, April 9, 2020 - link

    Because you're dividing up that bandwidth between thousands, even tens of thousands, of people.
  • Guspaz - Thursday, April 9, 2020 - link

    I do not have thousands of people living in my home. I'm talking about home networking, not Internet access. 2.5G controllers can be had for pennies in bulk, which also means that there's no reason a cheap 2.5G switch can't be developed. Just because consumers often don't have Internet faster than a gigabit doesn't mean they don't always (Bell Canada's fastest tier is 1.5 gigabit), but more importantly, pretty much all home computers now use SSDs, which can easily saturate a 1 gigabit connection between machines.
  • saratoga4 - Thursday, April 9, 2020 - link

    2.5G is still being rolled out, lots announced, but not much shipping. Hence, prices are higher and options are limited. Probably be another year or two before prices settle down. Until then, no point in using 2.5G, you can get a faster 10g SFP+ switch for less than it'd cost you to do 2.5G.
  • voicequal - Thursday, April 9, 2020 - link

    2.5G is useful if you have Cat5e cable installed.
  • PaulHoule - Friday, April 10, 2020 - link

    I bought a half kilometer of solid core Cat6 cable (for PoE), it's a little more annoying to put ends on, but costs hardly more than Cat5e if you consider your labor.
  • mode_13h - Monday, April 13, 2020 - link

    0.5 km for what? Are you wiring up a small office?

    I just bought some pre-fab Cat 6A, which is the next step up from Cat 6. Cat 6E is just a marketing ploy - not a real standard.
  • Deicidium369 - Wednesday, April 15, 2020 - link

    Depends - often required Cat6 - depends on the Cat5 used.
  • close - Sunday, April 12, 2020 - link

    You don't have 10G, 5G, or even 2.5G because only a handful of people benefit from them, another bunch just want it to geek around with it, and the rest (vast majority) have exactly 0 need for it. People don't even want wires, they have phones, tablets, laptops on WiFi. If you can't make WiFi faster they don't care. There simply aren't enough people who constantly transfer that much data in their home network to feel the difference and want to pay for it.

    It's the reason why homes don't come standard with electrical wiring capable of handling 1000+A. For every person that needs it there are 10 million others that don't.

    Selling someone a 10G laptop only to let them find out at home that they need expensive switches or better cabling just guarantees disappointment. So manufacturers don't bother raising the BOM. Unlike a faster CPU or SSD, seeing the improvement in your network is a lot harder when your games, Netflix, and YouTube run just the same and 90% of the devices in your house can't even be connected to it.

    In the meantime don't expect everyone else to subsidize your purchase by buying something they don't need and can't use just to drag the prices down. If $2-300 (partially second hand prices) is too much for you to roll out 10G in your own home then you probably don't need it.

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