Search /
Docfinder:
Advanced search  |  Help  |  Site map
RESEARCH CENTERS
SITE RESOURCES
Click for Layer 8! No, really, click NOW!
Networking for Small Business
TODAY'S NEWS
Where's my gigabit Internet, anyway?
Americans cool with lab-grown organs, but not designer babies
IE6: Retired but not dead yet
Enterprise who? Google says little about Apps, business cloud services in Q1 report
DDoS Attackers Change Techniques To Wallop Sites
Can we talk? Internet of Things vendors face a communications 'mess'
AMD's profitability streak ends at two quarters
Michaels says breach at its stores affected nearly 3M payment cards
Exclusive: Google's Project Loon tests move to LTE band in Nevada
H-1B loophole may help California utility offshore IT jobs
How a cyber cop patrols the underworld of e-commerce
For Red Hat, it's RHEL and then…?
Will the Internet of Things Become the Internet of Broken Things?
Kill switches coming to iPhone, Android, Windows devices in 2015
Israeli start-up, working with GE, out to detect Stuxnet-like attacks
Galaxy S5 deep-dive review: Long on hype, short on delivery
Google revenue jumps 19 percent but still disappoints
Windows XP's retirement turns into major security project for Chinese firm
Teen arrested in Heartbleed attack against Canadian tax site
Still deploying 11n Wi-Fi?  You might want to think again
Collaboration 2.0: Old meets new
9 Things You Need to Know Before You Store Data in the Cloud
Can Heartbleed be used in DDoS attacks?
Secure browsers offer alternatives to Chrome, IE and Firefox
Linksys WRT1900AC Wi-Fi router: Faster than anything we've tested
/

Switching grows up: Where we've come from

Today's breaking news
Send to a friendFeedback


New technologies tend to issue forth from agile start-ups unencumbered by installed bases and investments in existing product lines. LAN switching is a case in point. The first commercial Ethernet switch was prototyped in the Silicon Valley garage of entrepreneur Vinod Bhardwaj, now president and CEO of ControlNet, Inc., a high-speed net-working start-up in Campbell, Calif.

Flush from his stake in the initial public offering of former employer Excelan, Inc. (the TCP/IP specialist subsequently acquired by Novell, Inc.), Bhardwaj went out on his own in 1987 with an idea for boosting the capacity of what was then pre-10Base-T Ethernet. LANs were proliferating everywhere. Ethernet's bus architecture was holding things back.

Bhardwaj was working on a three-port device that would replace Ethernet's individual t-connectors when he had a flash: It was not the speed but rather the shared nature of Ethernet that was the problem. The three-port device simplified wiring but wouldn't really scale. The answer was a product that provided dedicated connections to each station and could eventually include an uplink to higher speed backbones.

When Bhardwaj pitched his invention to network companies, he was regarded, like many pioneers before him, as being afflicted with moonstruck madness. "They said, 'We've moved on to routing, and you're sending us back to bridging,' " he recalls.

Rejected but resolute, Bhardwaj left the established players to their 10Base-T committee battles and co-founded his own company with Larry Blair, now vice president of marketing for Redback Networks, Inc. in San Jose. Calif. They named the company after Bhardwaj's wife, Kalpana, whose name means "imagination" in Hindi.

The first order of business was to get rid of the "b-word," so the device - really the aggregation of a bunch of bridges - was designated an Ethernet switch. The product, dubbed the EtherSwitch, was encased in a traditional four-cornered box, but Kalpana marketers represented it on network diagrams as circular just to make it look different.

"FDDI and ATM were coming out at the same time that we were releasing this 'fancy bridge,' so we promoted it as just tactical," Blair says. Tactical indeed. It turned out to be the beginning of a paradigm shift that would enable frame-based networking to flourish into the 21st century. At the time, however, finding believers wasn't easy.

One well-known network industry executive was offered worldwide marketing rights to the EtherSwitch for $250,000. "But he turned us down three times," Blair recalls.

The Kalpana team was left to its own devices and in the summer of 1990 rolled out the first EtherSwitch. It had seven 10M bit/sec ports and sold for $11,500, about $1,650 per port. However, the price was less of an obstacle to prospective customers than the configuration changes to their networks.

"They were concerned about reliability and introducing a single point of failure," Bhardwaj remembers. "But once we got in the door, we could demonstrate a very visible improvement to network performance."

In fact, early product reviews characterized the EtherSwitch's speed as "stunning," and sales started to snowball. By 1992, vendors that had scoffed at the concept of Ethernet switching were lining up for OEM deals. Their customers were demanding "Kalpana-like" technology.

Kalpana passed into history in 1994 when it was swallowed up by router giant Cisco Systems, Inc. Ever the entrepreneur, Bhardwaj had left the company three months previously so he wouldn't have to sign a noncompete agreement.

What does he think about the revolution his EtherSwitch has wrought?

"Switching has progressed more than I originally thought, but it has also gotten a lot more complicated," he says. "Switches were throughput devices that were supposed to replace hubs, not routers. You keep them simple, simple, simple. Throw bandwidth at the problem, not complexity."

Intro and What's in a Name
Prospects for ATM and Wrong Assumptions
Winners & Losers and The next Cisco? Over the Horizon and Eliminating Layer 2?

The entire report in a single file

RELATED LINKS

Breidenbach is a consultant and freelance writer in San Mateo, Calif. She can be reached at sbreidenbach@ usa.net.

Apply for your free subscription to Network World. Click here. Or get Network World delivered in PDF each week.

Get Copyright Clearance
Request a reprint or permission to use this article.


NWFusion offers more than 40 FREE technology-specific email newsletters in key network technology areas such as NSM, VPNs, Convergence, Security and more.
Click here to sign up!
New Event - WANs: Optimizing Your Network Now.
Hear from the experts about the innovations that are already starting to shake up the WAN world. Free Network World Technology Tour and Expo in Dallas, San Francisco, Washington DC, and New York.
Attend FREE
Your FREE Network World subscription will also include breaking news and information on wireless, storage, infrastructure, carriers and SPs, enterprise applications, videoconferencing, plus product reviews, technology insiders, management surveys and technology updates - GET IT NOW.