After much delay, the Gigabit Ethernet standard is finally a reality. The specification, technically called 802.3z, was approved by the IEEE Standards Association in a meeting this morning.
"Our core objective in the development of Gigabit Ethernet was to maintain compatibility with the vast installed based of 10M and 100Mbps Ethernet networks and systems," said Howard Frazier, chairman of the 802.3z Gigabit Task Force, in a statement. "We met this objective by ensuring that the same frame format and frame sizes are used at all operating speeds and by preserving the management parameters that network administrators have become familiar with."
In practical terms, the announcement will mean little to users because many companies have already pledged upgrades based on the standard, according to Tom Nolle, president of consultancy CIMI.
The real importance is that the end of the standards work validates the new technology, according to Jim Squicciarini, manager of data services at Lockheed Martin. "This makes it a lot easier for large equipment suppliers to get into the game."
Squicciarini predicted that with the standard out of the way, router giant Cisco Systems, will buy up another gigabit start-up -- they had previously bought gig newcomer Granite Systems in 1996. "Cisco has got to have been holding back," he said. "They'll probably grab up a start-up . . . like Lucent did with Prominet."