400GbE rollouts are beginning in 2019 and will accelerate rapidly. The debate on optics module format is largely over – although the focus is shifting to future speeds as system vendors have either settled on QSFP-DD or chosen to provide duplicate products. Long term, 400GbE will be deployed primarily with QSFP-DD, so the merits of an intermediate step without a compelling case beyond some future benefit is questionable.
400 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) is finally ready for prime time. Vendors are releasing hardware, and network operators are rapidly transitioning from evaluation to deployment.
Historically, high-speed Ethernet network interfaces were initially driven by service provider requirements for density and spectral efficiency. The optical modules were initially quite large – usually one per card. Over several generations, every speed converged to one of two module form factors: SFP and QSFP. These milestones led to lower cost and power as volume rose dramatically.
According to LightCounting’s projections, the five-year ramp of 400GbE is projected to be 20 times faster than 100GbE even before copper and active optical cables are included. This opportunity has led to an unprecedented industry investment by both established players and startups.