Ethernet vs. Token Ring

IBM didn’t win this argument

IBM might have knocked out DEC, but DEC bet right on Ethernet vs. IBM’s Token-Ring.

It was the classical IBM vs. Digital Equipment Corp. battle taken to the network theatre.

Two computing behemoths each lining up behind competing LAN architectures: IBM advocating Token-Ring and DEC endorsing Ethernet.

Pioneered by IBM scientist Olof Soderblom in the 1960s, Token-Ring was initially successful for IBM – as most IBM-endorsed technologies are. But beyond IBM, it never garnered much support among top-tier vendors, which gravitated toward Ethernet, the preferred LAN technology of research institutions and manufacturing companies.

Token-Ring began its downward spiral soon after the emergence of 10Base-T Ethernet, an inexpensive, 10Mbps transmission technology than ran across telephone grade unshielded twisted-pair copper media. Matters were not helped when Soderblom began demanding royalties from the few Token-Ring vendors and chip makers, driving prices higher.

And then, Cisco, citing lack of market demand, dropped out of an effort to develop the 100Mbps High-Speed Token-Ring (HSTR) in 1998, a move that essentially scuttled that initiative.

"Cisco is attempting to torpedo multivendor, industry-standard HSTR efforts and promote, instead, the Cisco proprietary technology," said Kevin Tolly, president of The Tolly Group, a catalyst behind the formation of the HSTR alliance and a Network World columnist.

Today, Token-Ring is barely detectable in the market as businesses have opted for switched Ethernet in the LAN. Ethernet has even spread into the WAN as telecom carriers now offer Ethernet services on a local, metropolitan area, regional and national basis.

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