Ethernet Turns 40!

By Gilda Foss, Industry Evangelist, Office of the CTO, NetAppBoard of Directors, Ethernet Alliance Chairperson, Technology Exploration Forum


Ethernet is an innovative method allowing computers to send packets of information while avoiding collisions with incoming packets. Furthermore, as we all know, Ethernet is the founding father of network protocols for Local Area Networks – the now-standard protocol to enable devices of many flavors to all connect and communicate on a common high speed wired network.  Life as we know it today would be drastically different without this incredibly necessary technology.


Ethernet has gone on to mature heavily over the last four decades into its role as the basis of the IEEE 802.3™ standard, which specifies the physical and lower software layers, and is the foundation for today's world of high-speed communications.  With more than 1.2 billion ports shipped in 2012 alone, Ethernet ranks highly among those technologies that impact day-to-day life on a global basis. Data center networks, PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and now the smart grid, smart meters, personal medical devices, the Internet of Things, connected cars, and more – Ethernet touches them all in one way or another. And as Ethernet turns 40, it is poised for a new age of innovation!


In 2013, that ubiquitous LAN technology that we all know and love, celebrates its 40th year of existence.  NetApp serves on the Board of the Ethernet Alliance, who is sponsoring a 40th Anniversary Party at the Technology Exploration Forum in October 2013 and this year we are taking it to the future!  You won’t want to miss this event where many of the best and brightest minds in the networking industry will be.  We will be discussing the future of Ethernet, as we target the next generation of applications and technologies that will drive the next generation of specifications.  This forum will bring together experts and key players in the Ethernet industry to discuss and explore these areas. In addition to its own broad membership, which includes component vendors, system vendors, and end users, this event is open to non-Ethernet Alliance members. Together, these two constituencies will provide a diverse set of backgrounds, ensuring lively discussion and helping the industry define a vision for the future of Ethernet.


We are also very pleased & honored to announce that Mr. Bob Metcalfe will be our keynote speaker.   Most of you know Bob as the founder and inventor of Ethernet so we are just thrilled to have an innovator of his caliber speaking at our event.  In addition to his keynote presentation, Bob will also be leading a brainstorming session where ideas will be shared and challenges will be discussed. Overall, this will be a wonderful tribute to the 40th Anniversary of Ethernet and what we can look forward to in the future.


In 1973, Metcalfe and his associates essentially invented a bus topology local area network using a coax cable medium and an access method called ‘carrier sense multiple access’ with collision detection. Ethernet was amongst a number of other competing LAN developments in the early days but went on to become an IEEE standard where the initial standard designated 802.3 was published in 1985.


Ethernet has continued to be enhanced with high data rates, new transmission media, and a switched topology that improves access and net data rate.  Furthermore there have been some amazing enhancements like Carrier Ethernet that puts the technology into the MAN and WAN categories of networking for some applications.  Let’s raise our proverbial glasses and toast to the 40th anniversary of Ethernet & look forward to what the future will bring!