Electronic Design

An Ethernet Alliance? It's About Time!

Ethernet, that ubiquitous local-area networking (LAN) technology, has been around for 33 years. Yet there has never been an organization devoted to its promotion, success, and expansion—until now. The Ethernet Alliance (EA) will help member companies increase the acceptance and reduce the time-to-market of Ethernet products.

Its objectives include the acceleration of the development and marketing of new Ethernet products. It also will define new technologies and educate users about choices and implementations for various applications. And while the EA is the first group to focus on the big Ethernet picture, several organizations already support segments of the industry.

The Metro Ethernet Forum promotes Ethernet as a metro networking carrier technology. The Ethernet in the First Mile Alliance promotes the adoption of the Ethernet passive optical networking technology known as 802.3ah. But the biggest group is the Wi-Fi Alliance, which supports Ethernet wireless LAN products. It will be interesting to see how the EA fits in with the existing groups as well as the IEEE's 802 Task Groups. Will there be an alliance of the alliances?

This year, the EA will focus on Ethernet technology incubation, interoperability demos, and education. Incubation efforts for 2006 will include defining the 100-Gbit/s Ethernet and demonstrating 10GBaseT, 10GBaseLRM, and backplane Ethernet interoperability.

The EA may not seem necessary, given the complete dominance of LAN products with Ethernet standards. Furthermore, the IEEE 802 standards groups continue to do a good job—though they neglect the promotional and planning needs as well as the big picture. That's not their job, after all.

But most new technologies spur the initiation of some kind of alliance that really helps move the technology forward in a more timely manner. So basically, the EA is a good idea if Ethernet is to continue its long successful run.

I asked Ethernet's inventor, Bob Metcalfe, what he had to say about the EA. He reminded me that Ethernet came into being on May 22, 1973. Jillions of Ethernet ports have been sold during the ensuing years, and its future looks just as bright.

Ethernet Alliance

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