Monday, November 17, 2008

Comcast's pricey DOCSIS 3.0

Comcast has finally started its rollout of Docsis 3.0 in the northwest. Comcast will be offering this service in Seattle, Spokane, and surrounding areas in Washington, and Eugene in Oregon. How about the subscription cost? I must say that Comcast haas lived to its standards, it is extremely pricey. Here are the subscription costs I got from an article in Lightreading:

For its initial wideband service deployments, Comcast is leading off with an "Extreme 50" tier that offers bursts of up to 50 Mbit/s downstream and 10 Mbit/s upstream for $139.95 per month. The "Ultra" tier sells for $62.95 per month, offering 22 Mbit/s down by 5 Mbit/s upstream.

Comcast is coupling that with a business-class Wideband package (50 Mbit/s down by 10 Mbit/s up) for $189.95 that bundles in firewall services, static IP addresses, 24/7 customer support, and a suite of software from Microsoft

$150 a month (with taxes) for 50 Mbps downstream does seem exorbitant to me. Compare this to Korea/ Japan where customers pay around $40 a month for Ethernet PON (EPON) based broadband access; and you will feel that Comcast is ripping our wallet.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Whitepaper from Arista on 10 GigE penetration in SANs

Arista Networks released a joint whitepaper with Intel on 10 GigE performance technologies and penetration of 10 Gig Ethernet into SANs using the iSCSI protocol. The whitepaper is available here. The whitepaper discusses a bunch of Intel technologies for 10 GigE such as I/O Acceleration Technology (IOAT) and Virtual Machine Data Queues (VMDq). Also mentioned is how iSCSI is helping 10 GigE replace Fiber Channels in SANs.

Arista Networks also has a new CEO today, Jayshree Ullal, a high-profile Cisco senior VP. Also joining is Andy Bechtolsheim as Chief Development Officer. Andy is one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, which he re-joined in 2003 on the acquisition of Kealia. Arista vision is to enter the cloud computing market in which multiple services and applications are deployed in a central network and may be easily availed from multiple devices and end-points.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Neterion's whitepaper on IO QoS

Neterion has an excellent whitepaper on IOQoS, a technology that enables multiple virtual channels to have independent QoS parameters while sharing the same Neterion 1- GigE adapter. OpenSolaris has a similar project, Crossbow which lets virtual streams have independent QoS parameters while sharing the same 10 GigE interface.

Encryption at the speed of 100 Gbps

According to a Lightreading report, Telcordia is trying to bring optical security at 100 Gbps using Photonic Layer Security (PLS). PLS changes an optical signals' phase by different amounts at different points, and then applying a similar iteration on a combined optical signal.

That mixes things up, but the number of phase changes involved is small enough to be cracked by trying enough possible permutations. (There's a limit to the number of usable codes that can be applied to that step.) So, PLS calls for multiple signals to get combined, with a second encoding iteration done on the aggregated stream, again using phase shifts. The decoding can be done only with the PLS key.

For details on PLS, please refer to the Journal of Optical Networking (JON) article available here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Notes from Intel Developers Forum

Intel Developer Forum (IDF) was held 19th-21st August last week. Intel seems to be focussed on three key markets: (i) Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) (ii) Converged internet and multimedia, and (iii) High-end enterprise solutions. Intel is targeting these markets with the following processors respectively (i)Intel Atom which is sized smaller than a quarter coin but has as many transistors as the Pentium IV, (ii) Intel Media Processor CE 3100, and (iii) Intel Nehalem which is Intel's first foray into a NUMA architecture with high memory bandwidth using the Intel Quickpath Interconnect (QPI) technology.

The plenary talks revolved around the above. Out of a gamut of applications and gadgets talked about, I found two interesting. The first is Gypsii, an unique application combining the mobile computing and social networking. On a mobile device, such as your IPhone, you can locate all your friends on a map, and instantly communicate with them like hooking up for lunch. The other is a TV internet widget jointly developed b Intel and Yahoo (see press release here. With this widget, you will have a toolbar at the bottom of your television screen with which you can check your mail, stocks, weather, news, and what not.

Many of the technical sessions were based on parallel computing and the Nehalem architecture. Nehalem seems to have improved branch prediction, better unaligned cache handling, improved store and load performance, besides significantly higher interconnect bandwidth which should help in faster memory access and better I/O. That seems to indicate that Nehalem will have great 10 GigE network I/O, so it will be fun to do some performance characterization and analysis on a Nehalem box. Besides there was a 2 hour session on the Intel Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) ins which is expected in 2010. AVX will be operating on 256-bit registers allowing for increased vectorization and 256-bit add, multiply and shuffle operations.

All presentation materials from IDF are now publicly available here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Google policymaker argues about owning your own fiber

Here is an interesrting article from Google about our need to reduce the dependence on ISPs to deploy advanced fiber based broadband access services such as PONs. This coincides with Google chief Internet evangelist Vint Cerf criticizing ISPs for not deploying PON like infrastructure in the US (See article here). Google has also bought considerable mobile spectrum recently sold in the US.

These show Google's increasing efforts to reduce its dependence on ISPs to supply services to end-users. Interesting Google's blog refers to an "open access" like model (discussed earlier in this forum), in which people own the fiber connections to their home, and ISP's bid for the right to provide services to them. The blog draws an interesting analogy to cars which were first rented by people (like cabs), but were eventually bought by masses; and computers which were first shared in a mainframe, but are now owned by everyone.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Brocade buys Foundry

Brocade announced yesterday its intent to buy Foundry networks for $3 billion, a considerable premium over Foundry's current market cap. This deal is interesting in a variety of ways, but it definitely points towards the importance of Ethernet, particularly Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) in the future. And in many ways it could be the turning point of the ethernet revolution in the data center.

Technically the deal makes sense. Brocade is a champion of fiber channel. But with FCoE, it is clear that Brocade will be threatened by Ethernet based vendors taking away a slice of backend switches. With Foundry, Brocade can offer a product line complete with technologies over stages of evolution: from fiber channel, to ethernet, to FCoE. It also poses a challenge to Cisco's emergence in the data center.

While this deal sounds good, I have been always skeptical of the execution of the deal when two equal sized companies merge. It just seems difficult to bring two corporate cultures together when neither one can dominate given that the size of the two is almost equal. One prominent example which has not worked till now is the AMD - ATI tech merger, the combined company's net worth being $4 billion now compared to the $5.5 billion for which ATI Tech was initially bought. No it will be interesting to see how things move forward after the deal.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Chelsio now supported on VMWare ESX 3.5

If you missed this press release from VMWare- Chelsio's 10 GigE family is now supported on ESX 3.5.
Also, Centillium has been bought by TranSwitch.

Monday, June 30, 2008

PMC-Sierra White Paper on 10 GigE

PMC-Sierra has released a white paper on their 10 Gig reference design. While the paper does not talk about much technical details on 10 GigE, it does try to motivate 10 GigE the obvious way, IPTV. It talks about the growing demand for HDTV, and how people with multiple set top boxes would require bandwidth that can be provided by 10 GigE solutions. Nothing much new, but may be interesting read for those in this field. Paper may be downloaded from (Registration required).

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Welcome to our new readers

We are now using Google Adwords to advertise this blog, and we welcome new readers who are discovering our blog via this channel. A quick introduction to this blog, we have discussed developments in Ethernet and related technologies for close to three years now. Feel free to contribute to current posts.

We have also an excellent search feature now, again courtesy google. We regularly refine and update this, and we recommend you to use this to find other posts and lively discussions on this blog.

Happy reading.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Comcast reports testing 100 GigE

Comcast today issued a press release stating that it had successfully tested 100 GigE over its backbone network between Philadelphia and McLean, VA using Cisco's 100 GigE interface for its CRS-1 platform. The release also mentions that Comcast followed the specifications for the IEEE 802.3ba standard for 100 Gig Ethernet.

While this makes Comcast one of the first service providers to test a 100 Gbps point-to-point tunnel, I would like to remind my readers that this itself is not a major technological achievement, however colorful the news may read. Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) has existed in backbone networks and the optical world for several years now. So has the Cisco CRS-1 which can route multiple OC-192 (equivalent of 10 Gbps in the optical world) and OC-768 (40 Gbps). In fact Cisco claims that its CRS-1 can route upto 92 Terabits of traffic. I was not aware of a 100 Gbps interface to the CRS-1 before, but I presume that Cisco has it now, at least in prototype.

So carrying 10 optical channels across a backbone network is not something new. What's new about this I presume is that the 10 optical channels are delivered over a single interface which follows the 100 GigE IEEE 802.3 ah standard. Moreover 100 GigE has to my knowledge not been demonstrated before on a WAN, although there are previous studies from Lucent and AT&T showing 100 GigE on a LAN. For those unaware, the IEEE 802.3ba draft deals with how to handle several 10 GigE channels on a Ethernet interface. I am curious about which vendor Comcast worked with for the 100 GigE end interface. Opnext and Hitachi are the two companies having EA-DFB Lasers that can support 100 GigE according to this article.

Monday, June 16, 2008

EPON supporting DOCSIS from Salira

Apologies to my readers for no updates over the last month-and-a-half, I was busy traveling. There have not been any major updates in our field, except for the news of Salira releasing DOCSIS support for its EPONs.

The idea is to use EPONs as a feeder network for Cable TV networks. DOCSIS 3.0 which has been standardized recently and is still under trial deployment by Comcast and others and support downstream bandwidth is excess of 12 Mbps. PONS seem the natural choice to act as feeder networks.

However, this idea is not new. CATV networks already use fiber as a feeder till the last mile where copper takes over. EPONs have also been suggested earlier as feeder networks to VDSL, whose reach is much shorter. So much is to be seen on how Salira plans to market this.