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Much to come

Dec 18, 20032 mins

* Technology trends in LANs

Since this will be the last LAN newsletter you will read this year, I want to pause for a moment and take a look at some of the key trends driving LANs into the future.

Last year at this time I cautioned that vendors might try to sell you capacity you don’t need, like Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop. In 2003, Gigabit Ethernet prices continued to plummet, and Gigabit Ethernet has really become the de facto enterprise standard connection for desktops. You still don’t need it – but who cares? It’s cheap.

Wireless LANs continued to explode in 2003, and while analysts cautioned that WLAN hotspots were overhyped, they continue to grow in popularity. WLANs in enterprise gear is becoming just another access technology, alongside fiber-optic lines and your usual cables.

Meanwhile, 10 Gigabit Ethernet still isn’t used much, but we saw tremendous progress this year toward copper versions of the standard – versions that will no doubt make 10 Gigabit much more affordable. Granted, it has become pretty clear you won’t be able to run full 10 Gigabit over your trusty Category-5 wiring. Will that hinder its adoption? Probably. We’ll see.

Where the WAN meets the LAN, we’ve seen IPv6 start to take hold, with vendors introducing gear that supports the latest version of IP. Recently some early adopters have said IPv6 isn’t so bad to implement after all (see editorial link below).

Blade servers represent another strong trend, one that could change the way we think about LANs. LAN gear is being incorporated in server chassis, blurring the distinction between the network and the server worlds.

Tally all these trends and you get an interesting picture of what things might look like in 2004. It ought to keep us plenty busy.

Happy holidays, and we’ll see you again next year.