The evolution of the WAN over the past 10 years

* Once-a-decade book review: "Telecommunications and Data Communications Handbook"

We forgot to notice a significant milestone a couple of months ago. This newsletter is now over 10 years old. Joanie Wexler and I took over the newsletter in May of 1998, after the prior authors - who shall remain nameless - wrote six newsletters on frame relay and decided that they had nothing else to say.

Of course, at that point, the newsletter was dedicated frame relay rather than WANs, so maybe we also started to run out of items to write about specifically for frame relay. But the focus has remained on the same issues that were key for frame relay – how to increase the cost-effectiveness and the capabilities of your WAN to support the ever-changing needs within the corporate IT environment.

By the way, two quick notes of interest. Joanie handed over the task of co-authoring with Steve to Jim Metzler a few years ago in order to devote more of her energy to authoring the Wireless newsletter. But, since some things take a long time to change, the archives of this newsletter are still found at

We regard these archives as a treasure-trove documenting the evolution of the WAN over the past 10 years. And history is critical in our industry. As we look back on technologies and services like frame relay, SMDS, ATM, and MPLS, we find that there are many common threads, and that the technical, political, economic, social, and “religious” implications of each play a part in networks today.

And the beat goes on. Jim will be moderating a session at Interop in New York City entitled (tongue-in-cheek) "Is there anything else to say about the WAN?" We sure believe there is.

Which brings us to the book review.

We recently received a copy from Ray Horak of his “Telecommunications and Data Communications Handbook.” This (literally) weighty tome contains almost 800 pages of current technology, and, maybe more importantly, the historical basis for how we got to where we are today. From frequency division multiplexing to the invention of the Strowger switch by a disgruntled undertaker to the origin of wire “gauge,” the book is a great trip down memory lane for us old-timers and a necessary piece of technology background for neophytes.

However, the book isn’t just history. It’s more if an encyclopedia that includes current topics as of the publication date in 2007. As such, is serves as a great foundation for topics like application delivery and virtualization, which are covered in ongoing reports like Jim’s "Application Delivery Handbook".

As we move forward with new ideas, this historical context is mandatory to making sure that the mistakes of the past aren’t repeated. And this book is a great resource for providing that context.

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