NetWorld + Interop Atlanta September 13-17 1999

by Al Gallant

N+I 1999 offers a host of new network products and technologies.

NetWorld + Interop
September 13-17 1999

N+I 1999 offers a host of new network products and technologies.

In This Article:
N+I 1999 Atlanta Event Summary
Gigabit Ethernet over Copper

By Al Gallant

I was encouraged and pleased with every event I attended at Networld + Interop 1999 in Atlanta. However, I do need to apologize for not updating the CrossNodes discussion site as much as I wanted. The limited availability of press facilities at the show prevented me from providing timely updates. Other events usually keep the press facilities open longer than the floor hours but N+I pressroom was open the same hours as the show floor. Those core hours I dedicated to vendor appointments. Now that I am back in the office I thought I would provide a N+I 1999 summary.

Arriving in Atlanta late Monday, I found the talk of the town was hurricane Floyd. I met some network engineers who were planning on attending the show but had been called back to their respective offices to be on call for disaster recovery. I suspect that quite a few folks who were planning to attend ended up in this same situation. I found the event not as crowded as those I have attended in the past.

Many monitors were displaying the on-line hurricane tracking information site on the show floor. Everyone at the event could get up to the minute information about hurricane Floyd. I guess this should be considered one of the impacts of the Internet. Satellite images, radar images, and real time storm tracking are all readily available over the web and here at N+I it was not only handy but it proved practical to most attendees.

Part 2:  Technology


Just a quick aside, I was pleased with the use of technology by most of the vendors on the show floor. The advent of the flat panel displays made a significant impact at this event. Most vendors were using them in their booths. They are extremely practical and take less space in the booth. They weigh less reducing shipping weight and lowering shipping cost. The flat panel displays have really come-of-age. Everything about them, flicker free viewing, crisp sharp images, high resolution, and size of the viewing window, makes them a smart choice.

As I said earlier, I was encouraged and pleased with the N+I 1999 event. It was overflowing with new technologies and products but time was not sufficient to get a good handle on everything. There were over 500 vendors displaying their products on the show floor. The vendor exhibit was only opened three days, two days from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM and one day from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. I haven't met a person who could cover 500 booths in that amount of time.

My focus for the show was to concentrate on a few network technologies. My goals were: to see what progress had developed with gigabit Ethernet over copper (IEEE standard 802.3ab), to seek out the vendors who are pushing the network technology envelope to see what they were concentrating on for their research and development, and to see who was making the biggest impact in convergence technologies. I was not disappointed.

My vendor dance card looked like this. Tuesday September 14th I met with Imation, SysKonnect, Arescom, Phobos, Recourse Technologies, Comdisco, HP, Sun, and Intel. Wednesday September 15th I met with Broadcom, Ariel, Intel (again), 3Com, Avesta, and Cabletron. Thursday September 16th I met with GEA, Cisco, InteropNet Labs, and a host of convergence vendors.

Part 3:  Gigabit Ethernet over Copper

Gigabit Ethernet over Copper

Gigabit Ethernet over copper was a highlight at the show. I found two vendors that are presently shipping products that support it. Hewlett Packard is shipping copper gigabit Ethernet modules, the J4842A and the J4115A, as components of their HP ProCurve Switch. HP was the first vendor that I spoke with who is pushing for even higher speeds. They are forming the 10 Gigabit (10,000baseT) standards committee and are petitioning network vendors for participation.

SysKonnect (WWW.SysKonnect.Com) has two shipping copper gigabit Ethernet adapters, the SK-9821 and the SK-9822. The SK-9821 adapter is a single port adapter and the SK-9822 is a dual port adapter. The dual port adapter is designed for servers that would require two separate gigabit connections for such issues as redundancy, spanning two different networks or shared high-speed bandwidth. It has three MAC addresses, two physical and one virtual. The links can connect to different backbone switches to provide redundancy. The price is very impressive as well. The SK-9821 single port retails at $729 and the SSK-9822 retails at $1595. Street prices will be significantly lower. SysKonnect is an OEM for NIC products with over 15 years of experience

I went to the GEA (Gigabit Ethernet Alliance WWW.Gigabit-Ethernet.Org) booth to seek out vendors who might have 802.3ab products. All GEA steering committee members were present at the show. The vendors at the GEA booth all said they had copper gigabit Ethernet components and were planning to ship first quarter of 2000. My recommendation to Network managers is to start your "AFTER Christmas shopping list" now. Copper gigabit Ethernet (IEEE 802.3ab) will be the big item for the year 2000.

At Intel's booth I saw their copper gigabit Ethernet adapter. They had a 100-meter roll of Cat 5 cable between two systems with a sniffer and cable analyzer attached. They demonstrated that it really works at bandwidth speeds. Intel is not planning to release the Gigabit NIC card until Q1 2000.

The InteropNet Labs had a working demo of Gigabit Ethernet (1000base-T IEEE 802.3ab) over unshielded twisted pair. They used ordinary barbed wire as their unshielded twisted pair. Honest!!! Now I have read some comical urban legend stories about the country network engineer using barbed wire to run his network. But the InteropNet Labs really had a section of barbed wire over which they were running 1000base-T.

Now although the barbed wire demo was cute, the technology behind the demo is the real story. Most folks think that 1000base-T is just a way of taking 100base-T devices and making them go faster. If that was the case then I don't believe that this barbed wire demo would ever work. The effects of link induced interference caused by echo and crosstalk would cause it to fail. The point here is that Gigabit Ethernet is a new technology with a new standard (IEEE 802.3AB). 1000base-T uses a symbol rate of 125 Mbaud (the same as 100base-T) however it uses four pairs for the link instead of two pair as 100base-T uses and it has a five level coding scheme where 100base-T uses a three level coding scheme. Copper 1000base-T is not some future technology that is still a few years out. It is here and it is ready for the network industry.

Part 4:  Convergence


The industry defines convergence as "The integration of all kinds of information (voice, video, data) over a common network infrastructure". I met with Cisco representatives at N+I to discuss the in-roads Cisco has made in convergence technologies. Cisco announced AVVID at the N+I 1999 show. AVVID stands for Architecture for Voice, Video, and Integrated Data.

It appears that Cisco is blazing the trail on convergence technologies. They presented a complete suite of products that provide voice, video, and data convergence. They appear to be the leader in IP Phones with installed base of tens of thousands. Their strategy is to make sure all of their convergence products interface with existing legacy systems (PBX, servers, video systems). This takes the risk out of purchasing their AVVID solutions.

I thought there would be more of a union of vendors pushing for a Convergence Alliance or Standards Committee. This does not exist. There was a Convergence Showdown here at N+I that was quite the heated event. The showdown had vendors presenting their convergence strategies. After presenting, the vendors were allowed to ask each other questions concerning their convergence strategies. Soon the event became a debate. Cisco presented itself well and had products that proved they could expedite their convergence strategies.

There are two things that I thought Cisco does well with their architecture. They interface with legacy systems and they promise they will provide updates to their products when convergence standards become a reality. This allows Cisco to move ahead rapidly and provide clients with product security.

(More information concerning the N+I 1999 event in Atlanta will follow next week.)

This article was originally published on Friday Sep 24th 1999