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OIF launches Flexible Ethernet IA enabling efficient link utilisation for data centre interconnect
Announced Date: 3/10/2016 Published Date: 3/14/2016

The Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) has announced that one year after launching a project to enable flexible Ethernet for data centre and transport interconnect efficiency, members have finalised an implementation agreement (IA) for the technology.

The new Flexible Ethernet (FlexE) IA is designed to enable Ethernet equipment to more efficiently utilise optical link bandwidth. The OIF noted that Ethernet connections between routers and transport equipment need to be flexible in order to deliver incremental increases in bandwidth beyond 100 Gbit/s rates, with the new FlexE IA intended to bridge the gap between previous, current and next-generation rates transmission.

The OIF's FlexE IA defines a generic mechanism for supporting a range of Ethernet MAC rates that may or may not correspond to any existing Ethernet PHY rate. This capability includes MAC rates that are both greater than (employing bonding) and less than (through sub-rate and channelisation) the Ethernet PHY rates used to carry FlexE.

The (FlexE) IA is specifically designed to offer generalised multi-link gearbox implementation agreements, removing the restrictions on the number of bonded PHYs, with MLG2.0, for example, supporting one or two 100GBASE-R PHYs, and the constraint that the FlexE clients correspond to Ethernet rates (MLG2.0 supports only 10 and 40 Gbit/s clients).

The general capabilities supported by the FlexE include: bonding of Ethernet PHYs, such as support for 200 Gbit/s MAC over two bonded 100GBASE-R PHYs; sub-rates of Ethernet PHYs, for example 50 Gbit/s MAC over a 100GBASE-R PHY; channelisation within a PHY or a group of bonded PHYs, for example support for 150 Gbit/s and two 25 Gbit/s MACs over two bonded 100GBASE-R PHYs.

The full Flexible Ethernet (FlexE) IA can be found here.