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I blog from time to time about what’s new in Ethernet. I have just returned from the latest 802.3 meeting in Florida. IEEE 802.3 is the forum that maintains and updates Ethernet standards.
Here are some photos from Florida, I particularly like the one of the manatee I saw near the meeting hotel during a lunchtime walk:
There seems to be more activity going on in 802.3 than ever before with Ethernet spreading into ever more application spaces. The latest field is disk drives with a new study group getting underway to promote an Ethernet standard for hard disk drives.
You might think that hard disk drives (HDDs) are about to be replaced by flash memory. This is true for laptops and PCs but it is not true for the data warehouses that need to store ever more data. No doubt everyone is aware that hundreds of millions of photos are uploaded to Facebook everyday, but it is not just social media companies that require huge amounts of data storage.
For example, I was told that a jet engine may generate a terabyte of data on each flight and this is stored for the life of the engine in case it may be needed for analysis sometime in the future. Enormous amounts of data is being stored because it might at some time have value for data mining, and this needs to be done in the most cost effective manner.
What is the relevance of Ethernet to HDDs? The vision is that if a low-cost 5Gbps serial PHY can be developed that runs over SATA channels, Ethernet can be used to connect to HDDs. Using Ethernet has the advantage that you can then embed a low-cost CPU in the disk drive and then implement novel file systems in firmware. This allows sophisticated data storage techniques where data can be split over multiple HDDs for rapid retrieval or replicated over many different locations for redundancy.
In addition to the HDD work, there is good progress being made on the automotive Ethernet standards: