Vendors group to speak with one Ethernet voice

A group of vendors has officially launched the Ethernet Alliance, an organization to further evangelize the networking technology, the companies announced Tuesday.

The vendors’ aim is to create an educational body that will last as long as Ethernet technology and provide a single forum to advance the plethora of current and pending Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802 standards.

In the past, every time a new Ethernet standard appeared, vendors would incorporate an organization to promote it and then later dismantle that body once users adopted the technology, according to Blaine Kohl, vice president of marketing for the Ethernet Alliance. “It wasn’t really a very efficient method of promoting a technology,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday. “There’d be a lot of action and information, then silence.”

Until now, Ethernet technology vendors haven’t had a consistent presence in the marketplace, according to Kohl. The Ethernet Alliance will provide “one organization that will live in perpetuity as long as Ethernet is around,” she said.

The founding members of the alliance include Agere Systems Inc., Broadcom Corp., Intel Corp., Quake Technologies Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Sun Microsystems Inc., 3Com Corp. and Tehuti Networks Ltd. Efforts to establish the alliance started two years ago, according to Kohl, with Intel one of the prime movers. The alliance was incorporated in August 2005.

Brad Booth, previously at Intel, now director of advanced products with Quake, is the president of the Ethernet Alliance. Also formerly at Intel, Kohl is vice president of marketing and sales worldwide and business development for North America with Tehuti, a company offering solutions-on-a-chip for accelerating TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/Internet Protocol) in 10 Gigabit Ethernet networks.

As Ethernet has moved into newer markets such as consumer electronics, companies including Intel have found themselves fielding more and more questions from users about the status of the IEEE 802 standards, according to Kohl. The Ethernet Alliance’s main role will be to act as an educational resource, a place to answer all those questions as well as promote the technology, she said.

“We won’t write specs [specifications] or do certifications [of technology],” Kohl said.

“We sit between the IEEE and UNH-IOL [the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab].” While IEEE works on 802 Ethernet standards, the UNH-IOL focuses on interoperability certification.

The alliance will also act as a “front-end facilitator” for brainstorming discussions around a new technology before its submission to the IEEE to become a standard, according to Kohl, for instance in relation to 100 Gigabit Ethernet. The organization will also sponsor demonstrations of multivendor Ethernet technology interoperability, initially in the areas of 10Gbase-T, 10Gbase-LRM and backplane Ethernet interoperability.

The Ethernet Alliance has its headquarters in Mountain View, California, and aims to be a global organization. It has three membership levels:

— Principal members pay US$10,000 per year, have voting rights in the body and can serve on the board of directors;

— participating members pay $5,000 per year, don’t have voting rights, but, like the principal members, can participate in and chair committees;

— sustaining members pay $2,500 per year and can participate in but not chair meetings.

As of Monday, the alliance’s Web site listed 11 principal members, three participating members including Tehuti, and no sustaining members. It does have two consulting members — the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab (UNH-IOL) and Lawrence Berkeley Labs.

Kohl expects the alliance will announce more new members shortly as well as provide more information on the areas the organization intends to focus on in the coming year.

More information on the Ethernet Alliance is available at this Web site.

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