Ciena to Deliver Terabit-Level Networking Speeds

By | Mar 7, 2012

Communications manufacturer Ciena Corporation announced new devices that will be capable of providing terabit-level computer networking speeds. The new WaveLogic 3 chipset will use new software controlled chips that will be capable of providing 400 gigabit per second (Gbps) network speeds that the company indicated will lead to even faster performance in the near future.

Networking at these speeds will bring impressive capabilities. According to Ciena, the new chipset could simultaneously carry live Skype video chats from every household in San Francisco to Tokyo.

Faster networking speeds are important for many reasons, including facilitating cloud computing. The terabit speed of this new technology will not just be a little faster than current networking speeds, they will be a lot faster. Megabit per second (Mbps) networking speeds are common for many users today. A 1 Gbps network is 1,000 times faster than 1 Mbps network, and a 1 Tbps network will be 1,000 times faster than a 1 Gbps network.

While the speed is certainly impressive, the implications of much higher performance levels will have many important benefits beyond just raising the speed limit.

How Higher Speeds Will Change Computing

Currently, very high networking speeds can be attained within a company data center or even within short distances between buildings. But as the distance extends, the cost of transmitting at very high speed is not economical.

The physics of sending information at very high speeds over long distancespresent additional challenges. Latency is a term that describes the time delayin sending and receiving information. Some systems and applications aresensitive to latency, and will either not operate reliably or not atall. Synchronous connections, such as with certain mainframe technologies andVoice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, are two examples of common applicationsthat do not tolerate high latency.

Implications for Cloud Computing

The term cloud computing is something of a misnomer, as most networking connections are actually accomplished through ground-level communications to reach so called cloud providers.

Boosting speeds from megabit- to terabit-level performance will bring new options and flexibility to corporate and cloud computing. Data centers for operations or disaster recovery and business continuity could be located or relocated to lower cost locations. Hosting communication-intensive applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP) and latency-sensitive legacy apps in the cloud may become more practical and possible. Redundant or remote processing operations and data centers may also become more financially attractive. Communications providers will have more flexibility in allocating, packaging, and provisioning services.

Other chip makers, including communications equipment maker Cisco, are also working on faster chips and newer technologies, so expect more innovations and even higher speeds.

The winner of these chip and communications equipment "speed wars" remains to be seen. For cloud providers, enterprise architects and customers, higher speeds and more choice will give them attractive new ways to compete.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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