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From Phones, to Data Centers, to Cars and Arenas: Ethernet Is Everywhere!

Over the last 40 years Ethernet has become the quintessential & standard network solution for a diverse array of applications

On May 22, Ethernet - Robert Metcalfe's ingenious invention -celebrated its 40th anniversary. As the global tech community celebrates this milestone for one of the world's most transformative technologies, we take a look at its evolution from a printer-to-printer communication system at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), to a system that is underpinning everything from how we access and leverage data to how we drive our cars.

From its origins at Xerox, over the last 40 years Ethernet has become the quintessential and standard network solution for an increasingly diverse array of applications. Highly scalable and adaptable, in recent years Ethernet has evolved from its enterprise roots, infiltrating today's high performance data centers and Metro network rings at 10 GbE speeds and now 40 and 100 GbE speeds, offering predictable performance with quality of service, improved latency and seamless access to a wide array of applications and services.

However, even today, Ethernet's history is far from written. Even as 40 GbE and 100 GbE speeds are just now becoming available, there are plans to begin testing 400 GbE speeds later in 2013. With these rapid gains being made in terms of speed and diversity, Ethernet continues to demonstrate its seemingly limitless potential and flexibility as a network platform of choice. The transition to IP is wide scale, for example, as phone calls have been enhanced and expanded over the last several years with the introduction of VoIP. One can also expect to see Ethernet revolutionize many other communication and data transactions, from the way we conduct work meetings with video conferencing, to the way we watch movies, and even how we drive our cars.

Pitch Perfect, Crystal Clear
From the boardroom to the stadium, audio and video technologies (A/V) are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and Ethernet is also playing a role in the continued advancement and rapid deployment of these solutions. The recent introduction of Audio Video Bridging (AVB) standards technology backed by the IEEE allows Ethernet to support highly sophisticated audio and video over the Ethernet network.

Unlike traditional A/V solutions, AVB leverages Ethernet to deliver audio and video with predictable latency and precise synchronization. This maximizes the functionality of audio and video technology to deliver perfectly synced, crystal clear sound and picture, while eliminating cable complexity that can turn a simple remote presentation into an IT nightmare.

Ethernet-based AVB is rapidly becoming the solution of choice for global enterprises, delivering a virtual boardroom for executives based around the world, as well as for stadiums, arenas, and other entertainment venues that are looking to make bigger and better magic with every event.

Building Automation
Just as fuel economy standards are driving automobile manufacturers to adopt Ethernet as a way to create more energy efficient vehicles, facilities managers are likewise looking at Ethernet as a way to make buildings greener. As in the auto industry, part of the impetus for this eco-friendly move are the growing number of regulatory mandates and incentives regarding energy efficiency in new and updated commercial and residential facilities. However, the long-term reductions in OPEX costs that stem from improved energy efficiency are also playing a significant role in the adoption of technologies, like Ethernet, that enable it.

But going green is not the only reason facilities managers are turning to Ethernet. By centralizing a building's automation through Ethernet, facilities managers are able to monitor and manage a building's most critical systems, including security, lighting and HVAC via a single network, controlling access and ensuring that building occupants are comfortable in their environment. Moreover, Ethernet also offers easy connection to the Internet, giving building managers real-time access to data from anywhere in the system, and enabling them to make adjustments to any system remotely via a laptop computer or other connected device.

A Lean, Green Driving Machine
In October 2012, Hyundai announced plans to partner with Broadcom to wire its cars with Ethernet in order to unify several disparate systems - including the infotainment consoles, safety systems, ABS brakes, and GPS - into a single network. They are not alone.

For auto manufacturers, the advantages of Ethernet are immense. Not only will Ethernet reduce the complexity and cost of wiring a vehicle's many diverse systems, it will also considerably lighten the vehicle itself. Cars traditionally have required an immense array of cables to connect and configure all of these systems. In the near future, streamlined Ethernet will reduce costs, converge media communications, and reduce the weight of vehicles, ultimately boosting fuel efficiency and helping automakers achieve the federal fuel economy standard of 54.5 MPG by 2025.

Eyes in the Sky
Physical security is another area in which Ethernet is enabling significant advancements. From ensuring the safety of office buildings and banks with integrated alarms and sophisticated door locks, to protecting travelers at airports and train stations with surveillance cameras, physical security systems play a critical role in protecting people and property across the globe. However, as the complexity and sophistication of these systems grows with an increasing number of remotely connected devices and access points, streamlining management is rapidly becoming mission-critical.

Ethernet-based networking solutions centralize control, management and monitoring across multiple security devices, providing improved port access security and capacity. With Ethernet, security teams have centralized access and management capabilities over all devices and access points. With enhanced power capabilities enabled by Power over Ethernet (PoE+), devices with more advanced capabilities may now be connected and powered directly over the Ethernet network. Malfunctioning devices can be remotely tested and trouble-shooted, reducing the time and cost associated with repairs, and the entire system can be monitored in real time, helping to ensure the security of a facility and its occupants.

Ethernet is powering the systems that power your world, providing ease of use through interoperability between networking devices, reducing the need for complex network setup and management, offering a seamless, simple solution for hassle-free delivery of the applications that drive our everyday lives.

While the basic frame format of Ethernet has essentially remained the same, the technology has shown the ability to continuously adapt to support ever-increasing capabilities in ways that no other networking technology has demonstrated. On its 40th birthday, it's becoming increasingly apparent that Ethernet is everywhere.

More Stories By Derek Granath

Derek Granath is the senior director of product management at Extreme Networks where he leads the team responsible for product strategy and the roadmap for Extreme’s data center and enterprise networking platforms and solutions.

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