Invasion of the Browsers vs. the Spread of Gigabits

Note: This is an archived article that appeared in the Teracom newsletter June 2002, and this article has not been updated to reflect technology developments since then.

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In our training, we discuss not only technology, but the story underlying business developments in the industry, and understanding how a particular technology - out of all the competing choices - ends up becoming dominant, and how it spreads from one market sector to another.

As an example, how technology moves from the "enterprise" (large business and government in-building systems) to the "network" (infrastructure deployed by phone companies outside of buildings) and vice-versa.

Browsers, web servers and IP packets are a technology that started in the "network" - essentially deployed first by individuals, running over the existing telephone network. Then phone companies began supporting this technology directly in their infrastructure, purchasing and deploying equipment that handles IP packets.

In the meantime, enterprises were busy deploying different technology in-building: Novell Netware and Banyan Vines running on LANs. Then, IP technology migrated from the network into the enterprise, essentially wiping out technologies like Banyan Vines and replacing them with IP browsers and servers running over the LAN in the enterprise... called "intranets".

I think of this as the "invasion of the browsers".

Gigabit Ethernet is happening in the opposite direction. Enterprises are deploying Gigabit Ethernet - technology that runs at 1,000,000,000 bits per second - on LANs and fiber in-building. The 10 Gig standard was approved last week. Today, when an enterprise orders a PC, more than likely, they will order it with a Gigabit Ethernet adapter card.

Inevitably, the capability to actually move information at these rates will expand outward from the PC: first, to a Gigabit Ethernet switch sitting less than 20 meters away, over copper wires. Then we will connect these switches together with Gigabit Ethernet over fiber, to wire the whole building at 1,000,000,000 bits per second.

Then will come the demand from enterprises for connectivity between buildings at 1,000,000,000 bits per second, and the phone companies will finally have some revenue to start deploying Gigabit Ethernet services. So this technology is spreading from the enterprise into the network, the opposite of browsers. I think of this as the "spread of the Gigabits".

People used to think that 1,500,000 bits per second has "high capacity". With the burgeoning growth of Gigabit Ethernet in-building and the related demand for connectivity between buildings at these rates, 1,000,000,000 and 10,000,000,000 bits per second will be the norm for "high capacity". Coming soon to a telephone company near you, all thanks to the adapter cards installed in new PCs.

For more information: Course 101, Telecom, Datacom and Networking for Non-Engineers and Course 110 IP, VoIP and MPLS for the Non-Engineering Professional