Ethernet everywhere!

Inside planes, trains, cars and spaceships, Ethernet is a morph master

Few technologies in the world have proven to be as adaptable as Ethernet . Once a meek 3Mbps over shared coaxial cable technology used to connect printers and PCs, it has morphed to 100Gbps and is used to help run trains, planes and spaceships. Here's a look at some of Ethernet's cooler implementations.

The Ether-car.

The Ether-car. A number of car manufacturers are toying with moving Ethernet inside their automobile designs. Case in point, last year the Bimmer blog said BMW has all intentions of making their future cars feature two-way communications. Vehicles will be able to be customized much in the same way a personal computer can be -- screen savers, colors of the menus etc. These customizations will not need to be made within the car, they can be made remotely on a personal home computer and transferred to the vehicle via a remote server from the Internet or from a portable device via an Ethernet port. Other work is ongoing to establish revolutionary on-board network technology Germany's SEIS project will explore all the fundamental technical aspects involved in the introduction of an IP-based on-board network, for example specially adapted versions of Ethernet.

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Evolution of Ethernet

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All-aboard

All-aboard: Certainly the rail industry in the United States can use all the help it can get. Ethernet equipment that can help manage onboard systems and help streamline operations is gaining use in overseas rail services . One of the largest train car manufacturers, Bombardier has been working on a system for its rail cars that integrates all the intelligent devices onboard into one Ethernet network.

Climate change

Climate change: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory this year got $62 million to develop, in conjunction with the existing Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), a prototype 100Gbps Ethernet network to connect Department of Energy supercomputers. While the applications that could benefit from so much bandwidth are many, the study of global climate change could hit the jackpot. For example, a huge archive of climate modeling data at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory contains more than 35 terabytes of data and is accessed by more than 2,500 users worldwide. However, as interest in this data grows, the next-generation archive is expected to contain at least 650 terabytes, and the larger distributed worldwide archive will be 6 petabytes to 10 petabytes.

In space

In space: Ethernet technology is used extensively across NASA systems but earlier this year the space agency signed an agreement with a German Ethernet vendor TTTech to build highly fault-tolerant networks for space-based applications. TTTech builds a set of time-triggered services called TTEthernet that enables design of synchronous, highly dependable embedded computing and networking, capable of tolerating multiple faults. NASA and TTTech will collaborate on space network standards that will lead to an open space Ethernet standard suitable for deployment in upcoming space networks in NASA programs and space systems.

Ethernet fit for a tank

Ethernet fit for a tank: In August, GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms got a $645,000 contract to supply a custom version of its Gigabit Ethernet switch to rumble around inside the U.S. Army's Abrams tank. The Ethernet upgrade is part of a long-term Army plan to bolster the tank's electronics systems to greatly improve digital command and control capabilities. The upgrades include faster networked communications, high-density computer memory and increased microprocessing speed, as well as the ability to upgrade the overall system more easily.

Unmanned aircraft

Unmanned aircraft: Gigabit Ethernet in general is high on the military's list of technologies to deploy. But a road map about one of its most high-profile systems, unmanned aircraft , states that Gigabit Ethernet and the adoption of other standardized communications equipment will be paramount for future unmanned aircraft development. From the report: Networked communications capabilities need to migrate to provide capacity, stability, reliability and rich connectivity/interoperability options.

The monster backbone switch

The monster backbone switch: The one area you'd think might be a done deal for Ethernet is the corporate backbone but no, the venerable network technology continues to evolve there too. Recently University of California at San Diego presented a paper describing what they called " PortLand software " that would let Layer 2 Ethernet data center network fabrics scale to 100,000 ports and beyond.

High-seas Ethernet

High-seas Ethernet: Furthering a military trend, the U.S. Navy recently signed Boeing to a five-year, $42.9 million contract to upgrade and support the Gigabit Ethernet networks it is building on its guided missile destroyers. The Navy's Gigabit Ethernet Data Multiplex System (GEDMS) upgrades the current 100Mbps fiber-based backbone network to a 1Gbps redundant Ethernet mesh. The GEDMS is the heart and soul of guided missile ships and basically handles ship-wide data transfers and supports navigation, combat, alarm and indicating, and damage control systems.

Controlling your roller coaster

Controlling your roller coaster: The SheiKra roller coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay isn't for the faint-of-heart. Once it gets going, the floor drops out, leaving your legs dangling in the breeze. Then you're hoisted up 200 feet and perched over a precipice for four heart-racing seconds before you plunge down a 90 degree drop at 70 mph. At any point in time, SheiKra has five trains racing along its track or loading passengers in the station. Keeping track of all of these trains is a cutting-edge control system based on you guessed it, Ethernet.

Ethernet on ice:

Ethernet on ice: The National Science Foundation , this year finished building a Cisco-based Gigabit Ethernet network backbone in McMurdo Station, the largest of three NSF research sites in Antarctica. The installation will provide scientists with significantly faster and more reliable network connectivity. ITWorld writes that within two years, the other two NSF stations - the South Pole and Palmer - will plug into the network, providing all the scientists with a high-speed, secure network supporting voice, video and data communications.

Other slideshows:

Evolution of Ethernet

100 Gigabit Ethernet: Bridge to Terabit Ethernet

Seven advanced car technologies the government wants now