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Aquantia Eyeing 'Billion Ethernet Port Opportunity'


January 30, 2017

The “billion Ethernet port opportunity” is more real than people realize. At the core of the network exists 10s of millions of ports that run Ethernet. From an enterprise with hundreds of millions of ports, and within the consumer routing space, the ports add up rather quickly. Aquantia is an Ethernet semiconductor company poised to provide high-speed Ethernet connectivity, melding legacy with next generation technology to the Ethernet experience.


In its 13-year history, Aquantia has ascended to a place of market leadership, firmly planting its flag with a number of industry firsts and accolades. As President and CEO Faraj Aalaei explained at Editors Day Silicon Valley, “If you think about Ethernet, it’s probably the most proliferated connector around the world,” which is why the San Jose, Calif.-based firm is taking a three-pronged approach to this “billion Ethernet port opportunity.”

“In 2012 we realized wireless tech was going to outpace wired,” and “people started talking about delivery speed,” noted Aalaei. The classic bottleneck scenario arises, and network improvement questions stem from it. Aquantia took its technology out to Cisco and Intel, and as Aalaei illustrated, “We see this tsunami coming; not only does the system OEMs need to upgrade to handle the challenge,” Aquantia is well-equipped to address this need. The firm set out to “boost” Ethernet over legacy cabling infrastructure by as much as 5 times the previous speed; it developed technology for 5 Gbit/s Ethernet (or 5GBASE-T), ran successful field trials with a select number of companies, and off to the races it went.

Around the same time, the NBASE-T Alliance was founded by Aquantia, Cisco and Intel, and the group began to extend invites to others. Before they knew it, the alliance totaled 45 members (which included competitors). The newly formed Alliance developed a blueprint for technology, which shortly after was ratified an international standard by the IEEE.  The NBASE-T/IEEE standard introduced a means for school districts to the enterprise to modernize legacy networks with a pocket-friendly and high-performing approach.

As Aalaei put it, the company went “From nothing to specification, chips, alliance and standard in four years;” the Alliance and Aquantia were officially on the map.

Looking toward the future, this is not a space for resting on laurels; Aalaei pointed out that, “Just like 10 Megabit Ethernet went to 100 Megabit, 100 Megabit went to Gigabit, and we drove the upgrade to Multi-Gigabit Ethernet, something even higher is coming.”

Something to keep in mind is that Ethernet technology has evolved greatly over the last 40/50 years, and at each turn implementation has grown in difficulty. At every step, the industry grows closer to the “Shannon Limit.” As the difficulty exponentially augments, there becomes a need for additional tools and expertise, and, as Aalaei highlighted, “The closer you get to this theoretical limit, the more we shine.” 

In specific, the three areas Aquantia plays include hyperscale deployments transitioning to higher bit rates, corporate data centers with 10 Gigabit Ethernet and enterprise/campus infrastructure network with Multi-Gigabit Ethernet.

In a hyperscale environment, utilizing Quantum Stream’s “magic science” can extend copper interconnects to 100 Gigabit/s which not only enables the data center operators to continue their race to ever bigger and faster networks but cuts cost of high-speed connectivity. Corporate data centers need a leg up as well, and as a result of partnerships with Intel and Cisco since 2012, Aquantia has built a strong reputation. As far as an enterprise / campus infrastructure network goes, Aquantia’s fingerprints can be found in the switch in your closet, the building’s wireless Access Point, data center servers, client PCs and more.

From its inception, Aquantia’s aim has been to remain a step ahead of customer demand by working with its customers, which has them “doing things that our competitors can’t anticipate…where we’re changing the way you networking systems and topologies are built more efficiently.” Aalaei left me with the notion of questioning everything, and if you don’t, you’ll never find the answers you seek.




Edited by Maurice Nagle

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