1.6 Terabit Ethernet will Drive Next-Generation AI/ML Wave and Accelerate Growth through 2030

Traditional data center networking bandwidth continues to grow at 30-40% per year. However, the AI/ML networking bandwidth will grow by more than 100% per year for the rest of the decade. In order to keep pace, networking speeds will increase at a more rapid pace through 2030.

Early 2024 demonstrations of 1.6 Terabit Ethernet (1.6 TbE) show that Ethernet is keeping pace, with 1.6 TbE solutions being the dominant port speed in the decade’s second half.

Currently, two of the largest hyperscalers are moving towards 800 gigabits per second (Gbps), with the other two rapidly transitioning toward 200/400 Gbps. With 800 Gbps ramping aggressively in late 2023, 1.6 TbE is right around the corner and will see solutions in both 51.2 Tbps and 102.4 Tbps switch silicon ASICs. Modern data centers must move vast amounts of data quickly to support the applications that reside on them and provide a strong return on the billions of dollars of CAPEX spent each year.

On the computing side, servers continue to race towards and above 100 cores per CPU, and AI/ML servers will expand from 8 GPUs today to 16 and 32 GPUs over the next several years. To enable those systems to scale efficiently 1.6 TbE will be a crucial driver to the interconnect. The 1.6 TbE Media Access Control (MAC) will not only drive the traditional speeds and feed expansion in networking for Top-of-Rack, Aggregation, and Core networking. Still, it will also become a key technology for back-end training networks.

While 1.6 TbE will start as an AI/ML and Cloud technology, it will also become a mainstream technology  for traditional service providers  in the 6G era, gain traction in high-performance networking applications in the enterprise market, and content networking around video streaming.

To prove 1.6 TbE speed is possible and that its performance can be measured, Keysight developed a joint testbed with Credo, demonstrating the industry’s first IEEE P802.3dj draft specification compliant 1.6 TbE measurement system running full line rate layer 2 Ethernet traffic on a real-world hardware development platform. This will help drive the technology to production quickly, with the industry likely going through back-to-back upgrade cycles to 800 Gbps today, followed by 1.6 TbE by 2026.

With Cloud customers looking toward supply chain diversity, testing and interoperability will become even more critical to each future generation, and we expect vendors to showcase more interoperability with the new technology.