Fast Ethernet

With companies continually adding more computers, software programs growing exponentially in size and complexity, and the advent of new technologies such as videoconferencing, demand for higher network capacity is at an all-time high. Several technologies are being developed that promise to deliver higher network bandwidth to users, however some of these are still in development and have not been standardized.

Fast Ethernet is a technology based on existing ethernet 10Base-T networks. After a year or two of debate the 100Base-TX method has become the de facto standard. It allows network speeds of 100 Mbps (megabits per second). 100Base-TX uses existing Category 5 network wire, which most of our clients now have, so it is generally cheaper to implement than other solutions. New network cards are still necessary, as well as a new network hub that supports 100Base-TX. A hub allows all the PCs on a network to communicate.

One option to reduce costs for larger networks with a dedicated server is to install a Fast Ethernet connection from the server to a switch, and then connect other PCs to that switch using their existing 10Base-T hardware. A switch is similar to a hub in that it connects several PCs; however a switch tries to send information only to the destination PC instead of broadcasting it to the entire network. Theoretically, this way ten PCs can simultaneously have full speed 10Mbps connections to the one server. A switch is a great way to reduce network congestion and increase throughput with minimal effort.

The next great leap in network speeds will be to Gigabit Ethernet technology, which probably will not be standardized for at least another year. As its name implies, Gigabit Ethernet will run at around 1000Mbps, or one hundred times faster than current ethernet speeds. Companies are planning to use Gigabit Ethernet to replace current Fast Ethernet backbone connections to the servers as described above.

February 1998

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