After a slow ramp up 1997 is set to be the year when Fast Ethernet takes off in volume, according to officials from 3Com.
3Com's president for the Asia-Pacific region, Matthew Kapp, said his company expects that by year's end as many as 50 per cent of the Ethernet network interface cards it ships will carry Fast Ethernet options.
Kapp sees two main trends emerging in the uptake of Fast Ethernet. "I think in most mature markets it's clear that there's a very fast uptake of 10/100Mbit/sec cards at the desktop that isn't being used - it's future proofing."
He sees the second area of uptake coming from within the backbones of enterprise networks. "In the backbone they're using 100Mbit/sec to handle the hierarchical bandwidth that the businesses use. But with multimedia, any-to-any type applications, videoconferencing and these things starting to come down, you're going to see more of a move towards 100Mbit/sec, probably in another year.
"Just as we saw a great uptake of 10Mbit/sec switching, we'll see a great uptake in 100Mbit/sec switching towards probably the end of the year," he said.
3Com's managing director for Australia and New Zealand, John Halliwell, agrees with the assessment. He feels there has been a massive uptake in the last six to eight months, with two primary drivers. "One is certainly some price reductions recently." While this drop was driven by principal competitor Intel, Halliwell said it hasn't impacted revenue. "In fact what that's actually done is stimulated the marketplace, so it will be interesting to see down the track the effect of the drops. From our perspective it's accelerated some of the moves by customers.
"The other side of it is that a lot of manufacturers are now beginning to push the faster technologies," said Halliwell. "So people are looking at trying to make sure that they very clearly invest for the future."
While he sees the education and small organisation marketplace as still going with straight Ethernet, a different story is told within enter-prises. "But most of the corporations now are saying we want the option to go forth, we want a 10/100 card, or just a straight Fast Ethernet card.
"And what we're finding is it tends to be not whole companies but segments of companies moving into it, so it might be the finance department, it might be the marketing department," said Halliwell. "There are lots of organisations that have taken their first step, and what they've tended to do is to have small parts of their businesses giving Fast Ethernet to end users."
Halliwell says the growing demand for faster technologies is reflected in the proposals being put forward to customers. "In the last 9Ð10 months I would doubt whether there have been any major proposals going to customers that either don't have Fast Ethernet or ATM, or both of them," he said. "And that's a very clear indication that this technology has been accepted. Certainly with our switching fabric, very little of it goes out without having Fast Ethernet in it."
For 3Com in Australia, ATM represents a growing market segment, with the company now claiming 28 ATM networks in production in the region. He says many are promoting what ATM was originally touted to do - multimedia. These sites include Hazelwood Power and Fisher and Paykel.
Kapp says the acceptance of ATM has followed classic market patterns.
"I think in the year of 1995 we saw ATM going in to early adopters. In 1996 it was being used in the production networks, basically down to switched Ethernet.
"And the next step will be to fan out to the desktop at 100Mbit/sec, and we're expecting to see a lot more Fast Ethernet and ATM being sold."