As if 100 Mbps is not enough, yet another higher bandwidth technology was unleashed on the industry in June of 1998. Gigabit Ethernet (IEEE 802.3z) specifies operations at 1000 Mbps, another tenfold bandwidth improvement. We discussed earlier how stations are hard-pressed to fully utilize 100 Mbps Ethernet. Why then do we need a Gigabit bandwidth technology? Gigabit Ethernet proponents expect to find it as either a backbone technology or as a pipe into very high speed file servers. This contrasts with Fast Ethernet in that Fast Ethernet network administrators can deploy Fast Ethernet to clients, servers, or use it as a backbone technology. Gigabit Ethernet will not be used to connect directly to clients any time soon. Some initial studies of Gigabit Ethernet indicate that installing 1000 Mbps interfaces in a Pentium class workstation will actually slow down its performance due to software interrupts. On the other hand, high performance UNIX stations functioning as file servers can indeed benefit from a larger pipe to the network.
In a Catalyst network, Gigabit Ethernet interconnects Catalysts to form a high-speed backbone. The Catalysts in Figure 1-9 have low speed stations connecting to them (10 and 100 Mbps), but have 1000 Mbps to pass traffic between workstations. A file server in the network also benefits from a 1000 Mbps connection supporting more concurrent client accesses.
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