Most companies are running 10/100 Mbps Ethernet as their physical networking standard, and TCP/IP as their transport protocol. For companies that require larger throughput, for network backup, multi-client access to shared storage, streaming media applications, large file transfers, MAN (Metropolitan Area Network) site connectivity, and other fat pipe usage the move to 1 Gbps Ethernet has begun.
You can begin experimenting cheaply with 1 "GigE" by buying combo network hubs or switches with one or two GigE ports on them and installing NIC cards that support GigE in connected servers or storage systems. With the coming implementation of iSCSI for storage networking, GigE gets even more useful still.
While GigE is certainly a step forward, on the horizon is a 10 GigE standard that portends very dramatic changes in the capabilities of networking. With this new standard, QoS services will become more commonplace (allowing networks to be better managed as a utility), we'll see much better networked video and audio. If past history is any indication, 10 GigE will be backwardly compatibly with prior Ethernet standards, and with Sonnet and will cost roughly what 1 GigE costs now at its introduction.
The 10GEA (or 10 Gigabit Ethernet Association) has published a number of white papers on the subject at: www.10gea.org/Tech-whitepapers.htm, and offers a timeline for the expected implementation of the standard. The final draft is scheduled for standardization in mid-2002.
Barrie Sosinsky (firstname.lastname@example.org)is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.