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Believe it or not, and I know it would be hard to believe, I put together the first PC Local Area Network in Indianapolis! I was a young man in 1983 and one of my favorite places to hang out was the IBM Store on Monument Circle. I was in the Army Reserve at the time as a 2nd Lieutenant and it just happened that one of the more senior officers I worked with managed that store. At the time, the IBM store was the place to go to buy electric typewriters, copy machines, and telephone systems. IBM had just came out with the Personal Computer and I could not keep my hands off of them. We had a deal. While I did not get paid for hanging out at the store, I would dress in a business suit with white shirt and blue tie, straight from the book “Dress for Success,” and help talk to customers about the IBM PC. People would stand around and watch me shuffle floppy disks and demonstrate basic programs like word processing, spreadsheets, and database. All this equipment was terribly expensive and the only opportunity I had to experiment with it was to help sell it. It was at the IBM Store where I saw my first color monitor in CGA. One day I received a call to come on in and help them figure out this thing called a PC Network. After installing adapter boards in two of their PC's and connecting some propitiatory coax cable to a controller unit, I was able to share files between computers, and even share a printer. This was amazing technology at the time. I went on to help start CMI and help write a Human Resource software system that took advantage of this IBM PC Network. We actually installed several around Indianapolis. The IBM PC Network ran at a speed of 1MB/second!
As our business grew and we began to sell more software, I moved on to Novell Networks and a wiring topology called ArcNet which ran at 2.5MB/second. This ArcNet was in competition with something IBM sold called Token Ring, also running at 2.5MB/second.
As IBM got pushed aside, I progressed through the evolution of Novell Networking. I was introduced to Ethernet. The first Ethernet networks ran on coax at a rate of 10MB/second. Ethernet then, as an option, ran on wire that we simply called Twisted Pair Ethernet (10BaseT) which seemed to be easier to work with and more reliable than the coax. I bought some special tools and test equipment and have been installing Ethernet networks ever since.
In 1992, I started my Internet Service Provider business, using 10 MB/second Ethernet. I had a dozen or so computers all connected to a HUB. My network started to suffer from the traffic load in the form of packet faults and collisions. It was at that time I bought my first US Robotics, 24 port Ethernet Switch at a cost of $4,500. The switch would make virtual network connections between ports and eliminate collisions.
Eventually, after holding off and absorbing the expense of the $4,500 switch, I got my first Netgear 10/100 MB/second Ethernet Switch which only cost $450.00 and I could start upgrading my computer network cards to run at 100 MB/second.
100 MB/second was the norm until about 2006, when I got my first chance to install a 1GB/second network at a Dental office. This speed was necessary to move around digital x-ray images. 1GB/second is the normal rate today. All of the switches in routers, network cards in computers and even laptops have 1GB/second Ethernet adapters.
As I write this, I am looking at 10GbE switches that run at 10GB/second, or 10 thousand times as fast at the first IBM PC network I used in 1983!
For many years, fiber optic has also been available, but mostly used by telephone and cable companies. Fiber was and still is way too expensive to be practical. With 10GbE switching and the same cat-6 cable that we have been installing since 1GB Ethernet, we now have a practical way to enjoy the speed of fiber over cat-6 copper wire.
On every step along the way of my 30 year history with computers and networks, it seems that the power or speed increases by a factor of 10 times what it was before. Every time I ask myself what in the world are we going to use all the power/speed for. There are really good uses for 10GbE switched Ethernet today. As we add more and more servers to a network, they have the need to communicate with each other at a high rate of speed. Sometimes a server may use a Network Shared Disk Array attached to it's own Ethernet connection. Redundant servers need a high speed connection to keep each other updated in real time. Many backup devices are network connected and store several terabytes of information. It seems that there is much more data to transfer around.
Even if you only have one server, you still have several users who access that server through that server's single 1GB Ethernet connection. Some servers can achieve more speed by load balancing between two Ethernet ports for a combined speed of 2GB/second. 10GbE Ethernet is starting to make a lot of sense.
If you are installing a new network, or simply replacing an existing switch, you should “future proof” your network by using 10GbE technology. The price of this technology will surely drop as it catches on and becomes the new normal in networking.