• United States
Contributing Writer

Mailbag: Do we need Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop?

Jan 14, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Your thoughts on Gigabit Ethernet and PCs

Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop seems to be building significant momentum. However, network executives are still divided over the actual merit of deploying it within their own environments. Responses I received to a newsletter I wrote last year on the subject were mixed.

Some IT pros felt the applications did not match up with the speed; others felt that they could easily use the bandwidth boost.

“For e-commerce, response time is extremely critical, otherwise the customer will not complete the transaction,” says one reader. “A Gigabit Ethernet card may not fully solve that problem.”

Instead the reader says that the focus should be put on the service provider and the e-commerce merchant to shore up wide-area connection. “Together, they should ensure fast access through intelligent content caching and acceleration.”

Another reader agrees that other techniques should be implemented before depending on Gigabit Ethernet. “Personally, I think that Fast Ethernet has enough bandwidth for the next decade,” he says. “It’s enough for audio and video. Also, these media platforms use data compression to save bandwidth.”

He adds: “What is really required is having quality of service and priority implemented. That’s the answer to enable users to have real useful bandwidth.”

A reader from Canada said that he thinks Gigabit Ethernet will more likely go to the television than the desktop. I think both will happen simultaneously as the world of entertainment centers and PCs collide in the small office/home office. I just read a release about a company that is rolling out an “all-in-one entertainment center/PC” with a 30-inch display that has recording, CD and DVD capabilities. It’s also got an Ethernet hookup and broadband connections.

A Connecticut-based network manager says he is reticent about Gigabit network interface cards (NIC) being installed in PCs because “they cause more problems than they solve.”

He points out, “most of what I’ve read suggests that Gigabit Ethernet, when run on lower grade copper that most of us have, is slower than 100TX due to the tremendous error rates.” He worries that overzealous “network gurus” will fry their User Datagram Protocol (UDP) traffic because of the problems with upline network and cabling infrastructure.

A network manager at a law firm says he’s already made the move to Gigabit Ethernet. When his company moved to a new building a few years ago, the firm installed OC-3 fiber instead of copper. He’s making the move to Gigabit Ethernet to catch up with the wiring and get out of the reliability and compatibility problems he was suffering. He said that he gathered up all NICs and switches from eBay and Pricewatch and can move the small firm over to Gigabit Ethernet for less than $10,000. He adds that his throughput has jumped from upwards of 70M bit/sec using ATM to 300M bit/sec using Gigabit Ethernet. “My boss is happy and I’m happy,” he says.