Flexible Ethernet, or FlexE, originated to solve challenges and inefficiencies in today’s packet and transport networks by providing flexibility and higher capacity, while also enabling the optimal usage of new technologies such as highly flexible coherent optical transmission. The data rates that have been standardized by the IEEE do not always align with the needs of Cloud and Telecom Service Provider networks, and creating new rates can take four or more years to complete.
FlexE provides a layer of flexibility to close the gap between what networks require and the Ethernet rates that are standardized, while also enabling lower cost solutions. FlexE has the capability to support large packet flows across multiple ports very efficiently, which allows it to support rates beyond the highest standardized Ethernet rate, and to do that at the lowest cost per bit by leveraging low cost, high volume optics. With the availability of flexible rate Coherent optical solutions used to interconnect data centers and central offices, FlexE allows the fiber links to be configured to the optimal rate, even if that rate is not a standardized Ethernet rate, greatly improving network capacity while reducing fiber plant capital expenditure. For these reasons and additional benefits, the ecosystem is coming together to enable FlexE to be used between data centers (East-West traffic), from data centers to points of presence (North-South traffic), and within telecom service provider networks.
Microsemi was an early contributor to the effort to define FlexE, joining before FlexE was brought into the OIF. Once at the OIF, Microsemi made numerous contributions towards the FlexE Implementation Agreements. In addition to the standardization effort, Microsemi has invested in bringing the key components required to enable the FlexE ecosystem. Microsemi first announced FlexE in the DIGI-G5 OTN Processor, enabling FlexE support on Optical Transport Equipment. The DIGI-G5 integrates a FlexE shim with an OTN encryption engine, allowing combined support for FlexE and layer-1 security.
To address FlexE on routers and Ethernet switches, Microsemi announced the META-DX1 family of multi-purpose PHYs with integrated FlexE shims. The META-DX1 family also supports MACsec, combining FlexE and layer-2 security.
The META-DX1 family and DIGI-G5 are key components to enable the FlexE ecosystem, and will be used in routers, switches and transport equipment that will be deployed by Cloud and Telecom Service Providers that are taking advantage of the benefits that FlexE provides.