Figure 2. Functional elements of Gigabit Ethernet technology.
In short, Gigabit Ethernet is the same Ethernet that managers already know and use, but 10 times faster than Fast Ethernet and 100 times faster than Ethernet. It also supports additional features that accommodate today's bandwidth-hungry applications and match the increasing power of the server and desktop.
The Benefits of Gigabit Ethernet To support increasing bandwidth needs, Gigabit Ethernet incorporates enhancements that enable fast optical fiber connections at the physical layer of the network. It provides a tenfold increase in MAC (Media Access Control) layer data rates to support video conferencing, complex imaging and other data-intensive applications.
Gigabit Ethernet has the advantage of being compatible with the most popular networking architecture, Ethernet. Since its introduction in the early 1980s, Ethernet deployment has been rapid, quickly overshadowing networking connection choices such as Token Ring and ATM.
Gigabit Ethernet compatibility with Ethernet preserves investments in administrator expertise and support staff training, while taking advantage of user familiarity. There is no need to purchase additional protocol stacks or invest in new middleware. Just as 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet provided a low-cost, incremental migration from 10 Mbps Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet will provide the next logical migration to 1000 Mbps bandwidth.
By 1996, according to IDC research projections, more than 80 percent of installed connections were Ethernet. The dominance of Ethernet is expected to continue beyond 1998, particularly as this compatible and scalable standard moves to gigabit speeds. In addition to a wider choice of products and vendors, this market dominance has brought with it a steady decrease in Ethernet hardware costs (see Figure 3).
Figure 3. Ethernet and Fast Ethernet products have shown steady cost reductions over time. Similar trends are anticipated for Gigabit Ethernet products. (Source: Dell Oro Group)
- Increased network performance levels, including traffic localization and high-speed cross segment movement
- Increased network scaleability — it will be easier to add and manage more users and "hungrier" applications
- Decreased overall costs over time
Fast Ethernet Paves the Way to Gigabit Ethernet The proliferation of Intel Pentium®, Pentium® Pro and Pentium® II processor-based desktops in corporate networks, combined with new bandwidth-intensive operating systems and applications, has already influenced many LAN decision makers to migrate to Fast Ethernet. First proposed in 1993, Fast Ethernet is quickly becoming the high-speed technology for today's LANs and corporate desktop users. It enjoys broad multi-vendor support and brisk migration interest among customers.
Intel believes Gigabit Ethernet will enjoy rapid deployment, following the proven track records of Ethernet and Fast Ethernet. It addresses the bandwidth dilemma without requiring costly protocol changes.
Most important, Gigabit Ethernet promises to efficiently match the power of high-performance PCs that increasingly populate the LAN. As businesses go to these more powerful processors, they need a high-performance infrastructure all the way from the desktop to the backbone.
How Will Gigabit Ethernet be Deployed? Gigabit Ethernet deployment scenarios will most likely mirror the model of Fast Ethernet, though the new technology is expected to become standardized and implemented at an even faster rate. The transformation will be driven by several factors:
- The established popularity of Ethernet and the compatibility offered by Gigabit Ethernet solutions
- The experience and momentum already garnered in bringing Fast Ethernet to market
- The commitment and expertise of the vendors involved
Scenario 1: Gigabit Ethernet will be switched and routed at the network backbone with switch-to-switch connections. The first installations will use optical fiber for long connections between buildings and copper links for shorter connections.
Figure 4. Strong growth is predicted for Gigabit Ethernet products. (Source: IDC #12382, Nov. 96)
Intel's Plans for Gigabit Ethernet Intel is uniquely positioned in the emerging market for Gigabit Ethernet products. With strengths in chip design, technology development and volume manufacturing, Intel will be able to give customers best-of-class products and comprehensive solutions at the best value.
Intel has established itself as a leader in the transition to Fast Ethernet, with its family of Fast Ethernet desktop, server and mobile adapters, print servers, hubs and switches. The PCI bus for Intel architecture PCs and servers is tailor-made for today's power users. A 32-bit PCI implementation already pumps out data in the multi-hundred megabits range. In the future, a 64-bit PCI bus will easily handle Gigabit Ethernet throughput at the desktop.
Adaptive Technology is one example of how Intel's silicon expertise has helped to boost network performance and extend the product life of both network adapters and switches. That same expertise will keep Intel at the forefront of Gigabit chip speed enhancements, as well.
Ongoing relationships with key industry leaders — Cisco, Microsoft and others — reflect Intel's commitment to extending and supporting industry standards by working with these leaders to provide end-to-end, desktop-to-campus solutions. This cooperation will assure compatibility with Gigabit Ethernet products that emerge from other vendors.
Intel intends to bring the same commitment to Gigabit Ethernet solutions as it has to Fast Ethernet, initially focusing on uplinks to the backbone, switch-to-switch links, and switch-to-server connections. The strategy will be extended as needed to other high-bandwidth networking products, in order to provide complete, cost-effective solutions, from the desktop to the backbone.