From its origin more than 25 years ago, Ethernet has evolved to meet the increasing demands of packet-switched networks. Due to its proven low implementation cost, its known reliability, and relative simplicity of installation and maintenance, its popularity has grown to the point that today nearly all traffic on the Internet originates or ends with an Ethernet connection. Further, as the demand for ever-faster network speeds has grown, Ethernet has been adapted to handle these higher speeds and the concomitant surges in volume demand that accompany them.
The One Gigabit Ethernet standard is already being deployed in large numbers in both corporate and public data networks, and has begun to move Ethernet from the realm of the local area network out to encompass the metro area network. Meanwhile, an even faster 10 Gigabit Ethernet standard is nearing completion. This latest standard is being driven not only by the increase in normal data traffic but also by the proliferation of new, bandwidth-intensive applications.
The draft standard for 10 Gigabit Ethernet is significantly different in some respects from earlier Ethernet standards, primarily in that it will only function over optical fiber, and only operate in full-duplex mode, meaning that collision detection protocols are unnecessary. Ethernet can now step up to 10 gigabits per second, however, it remains Ethernet, including the packet format, and the current capabilities are easily transferable to the new draft standard.
In addition, 10 Gigabit Ethernet does not obsolete current investments in network infrastructure. The task force heading the standards effort has taken steps to ensure that 10 Gigabit Ethernet is interoperable with other networking technologies such as SONET. The standard enables Ethernet packets to travel across SONET links with very little inefficiency.
Ethernet?s expansion for use in metro area networks can now be expanded yet again onto wide area networks, both in concert with SONET and also end-to-end Ethernet. With the current balance of network traffic today heavily favoring packet-switched data over voice, it is expected that the new 10 Gigabit Ethernet standard will help to create a convergence between networks designed primarily for voice, and the new data centric networks.
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