While 400 gigabit ethernet (400G) is still on its way to large scale deployment, Spirent has already begun working towards making 800G a solution in the near future. The telecommunications company announced March 8th that Intel Silicon Photonics has completed the operability validation of its 800G Ethernet optical transceiver using the Spirent’s own 800G solution, signaling the industry’s first 800G test solution. These solutions enable providers to ensure their 400G infrastructure is up to the challenge of today’s growth needs, while preparing 800G to be the future workhorse of the cloud’s backbone.

800G becoming a reality

Spirent’s 800G Appliance; Photo courtesy of Spirent

As the move towards 800G capabilities begins, operators and network vendors have started to position themselves to address new demands when it comes to handling data and the cloud. These early adopters are requesting that Spirent validate high-density devices and systems as the 800G ecosystem prepares to deliver even faster capabilities. These devices and systems are expected to maximize the capacity of physical locations with finite space as an urgent need exists for testing to support the advancement and adoption of 800G.

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“800G will be here soon and customers are partnering with Spirent to validate their 800G-capable next-gen devices,” said Dave Larson, general manager of Cloud & IP at Spirent Communications said in a press release. “Our testing provides assurance that Intel Silicon Photonics’ transceivers will meet customer requirements and interoperate successfully, and within error margins.”

With data center workloads growing due to innovations in applications such as Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality, AI and machine learning, the demand for 800G has increased as well due to the growing amount of data stored in the cloud as many organizations moved to the platform during the pandemic. As remote and hybrid work has emerged as the primary form of production, the need for increased data capacity and performance has signaled a need for these technologies. This 800G testing is also being pushed forward due to the needs of rapid access and performance capabilities for CPUs and the need to validate higher power-consuming applications and impact on the number of servers deployable in a data center.

“The cloud’s meteoric growth requires its ethernet backbone to be constantly reinvented, leaping forward in each release with double or even quadruple the speed and capacity of previous releases,” said Aniket Khosla, Spirent’s VP of Cloud and IP Product Management. “Spirent continues to be the industry’s trailblazer for ethernet validation, bringing new test solutions to market first so that the ethernet infrastructure ecosystem and service providers are able to keep moving forward to meet the insatiable demands for performance and capacity.”

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Potential challenges

This move from 400G to 800G capabilities are not expected to come without potential roadblocks, however. While this transition is built off of the same technology, there will be issues that arise around protocol testing, software and scale, according to Spirent’s forecast. Additionally, there are expectations that troubleshooting errors will be expensive as high speed optics are in limited supply and may cost tens of thousands of dollars each. The transition from 400G to 800G is expected to be a gradual process, as each tier of the ecosystem works through the migration towards this higher standard. These challenges are anticipated to affect each layer of the environment, from chipset and transceiver/cable vendors to network equipment manufacturers and hyperscalers.

As the move toward the migration to 800G becomes more of a reality, flexibility is key for all levels. The need to be constantly evolving with increased standards and working through complex issues such as chip shortages will be highly important when it comes to the demand for increased network capacity.