Ethernet's evangelist

From the 100G infrastructure to consumer electronics, Brad Booth sees Ethernet, well, just about everywhere

As a child growing up in western Canada, Brad Booth always liked to tinker with things.

When not skiing or playing hockey, the president of the Ethernet Alliance and senior principal engineer for Applied Micro Circuits Corp. was interested in electronics and the coming of the computer age.

"That kind of got us all really turned on to it," he says of himself and many of his childhood peers. "Fortunately, the schools were able to alter some of their curriculum to accommodate us."

Interest in electronics and mathematics stayed with him all through school and then into college. While at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, Booth took courses specifically around designing VLSI circuits, graduating in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in engineering.

After college, Booth went into telephony, working on ATM and SONET projects at Bell Northern Research. He got into Ethernet because of a stark, but prescient, comment by a superior at one of his later employers. "My coming into Ethernet was circumstance more than anything," he says. "The president of one of the companies I was working for at the time basically said that it owned 90% of the ATM market, but it was never going to be worth as much as 10% of the Ethernet market. To me, that seemed like a very interesting statement."

So Booth heeded his employer's advice and ended up at a company in Austin, Texas, that was looking for Ethernet chip designers. He was then assigned to attend a standards meeting and the rest, they say....

"It seemed to really fit with what I liked to do," Booth says of attending the Ethernet standards meeting and debating the merits of one proposal or implementation vs. the next. He's been attending and conducting standards meetings ever since, in addition to writing some of the most recent Ethernet standards documents.

He chaired IEEE standard 802.3an-2006, and before that he was the editor-in-chief for IEEE standard 802.3ae-2002. In 2003, Booth received recognition as a senior member of the IEEE.

In addition to helping found the Ethernet Alliance, Booth served as a director and vice president of technology for the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance.

Away from the tedium of standards definition, Booth finds time to ski with his parents in Canada, hike, horseback ride, play squash, and read science fiction and books on Zen. He's not a Buddhist, nor does he practice Zazen or meditation, but he feels the need to relate to people and things in a different way.

"I'm just very interested in how we can treat things in the world and how we can react to things and others," he says. "Anything that can open up my mind is stuff that I like to read through."

Position:President, Ethernet Alliance; and senior principal engineer, Applied Micro Circuits Corp.
Years in industry:19
Years in current positions:Less than one year at the Ethernet Alliance; less than six months at AMCC, which acquired Booth's previous employer, Quake Technologies, in August 2006.
Major career accomplishment:Wrote some of the most recent Ethernet standards documents: chaired IEEE standard 802.3an-2006, editor-in-chief for IEEE standard 802.3ae-2002. "It seemed to really fit with what I liked to do," Booth says of contributing to Ethernet standards.
Little-known fact:Booth reads books on Zen to help him relate to life's experiences.

Another motivator, naturally, is industry progress. A happy customer makes for a happy designer. "Realistically, we're designing these products for someone who in the end is going to be buying them," Booth says. "And if it doesn't seem to make sense then, you've gotta kind of think, 'Are we really doing the right thing?'"

And now he's focusing that esprit de progress squarely on Ethernet, as the technology matures to the point where it spreads its LAN wings and flies from its nest out into the exciting but scary world of telecom.

Booth helped create the Ethernet Alliance to promote industry awareness, acceptance and advancement of Ethernet-based technology and products. The organization seeks to accelerate industry adoption and remove barriers to market entry by providing a unified voice on IEEE 802 Ethernet projects.

The Ethernet Alliance has started the incubation process for 100 Gigabit Ethernet, has initiated efforts to demonstrate 10GBase-T, 10GBase-LRM and backplane Ethernet interoperability, and is showing consumer electronic applications. The goal is to demonstrate that new Ethernet technologies are ready for deployment and to provide insight into existing and emerging IEEE 802 Ethernet standards.

The opportunities for Ethernet abound, Booth says, especially with advancements such as IPTV and Carrier Ethernet, which is driving the replacement of frame relay, ATM and private lines with the traditional LAN technology. That's probably why the Ethernet market has remained strong, even during the tumultuous telecom and Internet bubble from 1999 to 2003.

"Even through the downturn, there's still been very good volumes," Booth notes.

Enough to unseat SONET as the ubiquitous telecom transport medium? Indeed, Booth says. "I could see Ethernet ending up being predominant in the network core."

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