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February 2015

New Ethernet speeds, 2.5 and 5 GbE, ready campus LAN for 802.11ac

The next generation of Wi-Fi technology, 802.11ac Wave 2, will be able to push multiple gigabits of data per second, but most enterprise networks wouldn't be able to take full advantage of it with the infrastructure they have in place today. That's because campus LANs typically have deployed edge switches that can, at most, support 1 Gbps. That bottleneck could be avoided with 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) edge switches, but it's a move that tends to be cost prohibitive for many IT departments -- primarily because 10 GbE requires the use of Cat6a cable, which few enterprises have deployed in the access layer.

The industry is working on two intermediate Ethernet speeds, 2.5 and 5 GbE, which could function over Cat5e and Cat6 cabling, two of the most common types in enterprise campus LANs. That work, however, was spearheaded by competing vendor alliances that are trying to solve the problem in different ways. Each says it's coordinating behind the scenes with the IEEE, as we explore in this issue of Network Evolution, but it's likely that the alliances will finish their work before the standards body's formal, consensus-building process. Could that leave networking pros with two sets of proprietary 2.5 and 5 GbE switches?

Also in this issue, we look at whether the network can help identify, stop and prevent data breaches like some the blockbuster cyberattacks that have recently plagued the likes of Sony, Home Depot and JPMorgan Chase. Additionally, we explore a research project called Named Data Networking, aimed at developing a new set of protocols that would replace TCP/IP and eliminate IP addresses.

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