Gigabit Ethernet Arrives -- Finally

After four long years, companies are finally investing in Gigabit Ethernet, as lower prices and ever-increasing bandwidth are making it time to replace Fast Ethernet. Stay in the loop with this guide to Gigabit Network Interface Cards.


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It's taken almost four years, or eons in techno time, but the Gigabit Ethernet is about to hit its stride. Hard as it is to believe in these IT budget-conscious days, companies are finally embracing Gigabit Ethernet -- the local-area network (LAN) protocol that can carry more than 1,000 megabits a second -- in large numbers.

Network managers are always in need for faster throughput, and traffic volume on corporate networks is growing even faster than most companies could have predicted. So much so that Cahner's In-Stat Group says the demand for 1- and 10-gigabit per second Ethernet products will more than triple over the next 3 years, to about $25 billion worldwide.

Thanks to connections enabled by telephony companies, multi-campus businesses in areas with fiber optic cable are running their own high-bandwidth networks and trimming tens of thousands of dollars from their networking budgets. Even smaller organizations are investing in the speed, efficiency, and "bandwidth to grow" features that Gigabit Ethernet allows.

If you adopted Gigabit Ethernet by now, you already know that the players in the adapter market have changed dramatically over the past year, with 3Com eating up some competitors and others simply abandoning the technology. Intel and 3Com are the largest players in the interface market.

Good news for buyers: these two vendors lowered the prices of network interface cards (NICs) at the end of first quarter. Desktop cards from both vendors are selling for around $200. Even though the price is still steep compared to Fast Ethernet adapters, the price drop and bandwidth increase is making customers take a second look.

Managers should take care, though, for a number of large vendors haven't (at least as of this writing) dropped prices to the level of 3Com and Intel. Web prices, direct from some vendor sites, are averaging around $450.

Expected to really shake up the market in a big way is what Intel dubs "LAN-on-motherboard," a single chip controller. A single chip implementation broke loose the Fast Ethernet market in the 1990s. Intel's first gigabit controller-based NIC is expected to be available in the fall.

To keep up to date on the current players in the card market, we've included a brief roundup of both server and workstation Gigabit network interface cards.

Product Briefing: Gigabit Network Interface Cards

Vendor: 3Com
Web: www.3com.com Product: Ethernet Desktop NICs; EtherLink 10/100 PCI Network
Interface Card
Type: Workstation
Speeds: 1GB; 10GB

Vendor: Allied Telesyn
Web: www.alliedtelesyn.com Product: AT-2970 Series Gigabit Ethernet Adapter
Type: Server
Speeds: 1GB; 10 GB

Vendor: Asante Technologies Inc.
Web: www.asante.com Product: GigaNIC 1064SX PCI Adapter for MAC & PC
Type: Workstation
Speed: 2 GB

Vendor: Compaq Computer Corp.
Web: www.compaq.com Product: N6133/6134 Gigabit NIC 64 PCI 1000SX
Type: Workstation
Speed: 10 GB

Vendor: D-Link Systems Inc.
Web: www.dlink.com Product: DGE-500T Gigabit Ethernet Adapter(s)
Types: Workstation; Server
Speeds: 1GB; 10 GB

Vendor: IBM Corp.
Web: www.ibm.com Product: Gigabit Ethernet Adapters for IBM PC/Servers
Types: Workstation; Server
Speeds: 1GB; 10 GB

Vendor: Intel Corp.
Web: www.intel.com Product: Intel Pro/1000 Family of Gigabit Server Adapters
Types: Workstation; Server
Speed: 1 GB

Vendor: NETGEAR Inc.
Web: www.netgear.com Product: GA620/620T PCI Gigabit Ethernet Cards
Types: Workstation; Server
Speed: 2 GB

Vendor: SMC Networks
Web: www.smc.com Product: SMC9462TX Gigabit Ethernet PCI Network Card
Types: Workstations; Server
Speeds: 1GB; 10 GB

Vendor: Sun Microsystems Inc.
Web: www.sun.com/products-n-solutions/hw Product: PCI & SBus GigabitEthernet Adapters
Types: Workstations; Server
Speed: 1 GB

Vendor: SysKonnect
Web: www.syskonnect.com Product : Gigabit Ethernet Adapters
Types: Workstations; Server
Speeds: 1GB; 10 GB

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