Ethernet comes of age

Ethernet comes of age

No one can deny that Ethernet technology has come a long way since Bob Metcalfe first put pen to paper and sketched his original design on a napkin.

We have moved from shared to switched Ethernet, and with the availability of ASIC-based hardware, network speeds have increased significantly.

Higher performance — first 10MB, then 100MB, through to Gigabit Ethernet — has brought greater network efficiency and accelerated communications around the globe.

Yet Australian organisations have so far been slow to grasp the 10 Gigabit mettle. Ethernet has beaten off ATM, FDDI and Token Ring competition to become a de facto standard, supporting 85 per cent of networks worldwide.

Ten Gigabit takes Ethernet into direct competition with SONET/SDH, but it has a distinct advantage in the current climate, and that is price.

The cost of 10 Gigabit Ethernet equipment has been cut dramatically this year, due to cost-effective manufacturing of the technology and components, and increased market competition.

Price reductions have spurred adoption of the technology in the LAN, MAN and WAN environments, clearly making 10 Gigabit an attractive option.

In fact, Gigabit has a 10-to-1 advantage over SONET/SDH when it comes to considering the price per port.

In future, very few companies will worry about having too much bandwidth, if the price is right.

Many Australian organisations have been hesitant about upgrading to 10 Gigabit as they do not feel they have the traffic to justify the investment. However, this perception is likely to change as Gigabit-attached power users and servers drive demand.

This is becoming obvious as sectors such as post-production, universities and Internet exchanges eye the benefits of 10 Gigabit in order to satisfy the demands of their exponentially growing network traffic. In the same vein, researchers are seeking ways to allow 10 Gigabit to run over copper.

The introduction of 10 Gigabit has built market confidence in Gigabit Ethernet.

It confirms to organisations that they are backing the right standard for today, and the future. Let’s hope Australian organisations don’t get left behind.

Gordon Vick is the South Asia Pacific regional director of Foundry Networks

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