Emerging standards for gigabit-speed Ethernet promise to provide massive bandwidth on LAN backbones in the distant future, but one vendor's more literal approach to the problem could deliver such products by the year's end.
While two IEEE committees consider competing proposals for achieving 1Gbit/sec speeds on Ethernet that are likely to take years to complete, Cogent Data Technologies is developing products it expects to be selling in the US by December.
Cogent's technique simply multiplies 100Mbit/sec Fast Ethernet using additional cables between devices. Company officials said it will cost only slightly more per port than standard 100Base-T Fast Ethernet.
"There's going to be a push of bandwidth from the bottom, rather than down from the top," said Charles Anderson, president of Cogent. "That's where the data flow is happening."
Anderson said the company supports the gigabit Ethernet proposal currently before the IEEE but is concerned that it is geared towards backbone needs and the relatively expensive medium of fibre-optic cable. With Cogent's solution, he said, users could continue using 100Base-T Fast Ethernet and Category 5 twisted-pair cable.
The Cogent technology uses as few as two or as many as 10 pairs of cable running 100Mbit/sec Fast Ethernet. Cogent, a manufacturer of adaptor cards and repeaters, is designing adaptors with multiplexers to divide signals for transmission over the parallel cables and recombine them at the destination device.
Anderson said the technology provides scalability as well as reliability. If one channel fails, the data can be rerouted onto other channels for nonstop operation.
Anderson acknowledged that cable installation costs limit the solution to connections between workgroup servers and workgroup switches located in one room.
Meanwhile, two gigabit-speed Ethernet approaches, each of which has major corporate proponents, are advancing through the IEEE's lengthy study and approval process.
Compaq, 3Com, Sun Microsystems, and Packet Engines, a technology licensing company in California, presented a proposal to the IEEE 802.3 committee last year. At the same time, the IEEE 802.12 committee is working on a standard backed by Hewlett-Packard and AT&T, called 1G-AnyLAN, that is similar to HP's 100VG-AnyLAN.