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Joyeux Anniversaire Ethernet

Ray Le Maistre
5/22/2013

Forty years ago, Robert Metcalfe, David Boggs, Chuck Thacker, and Butler Lampson developed Ethernet. Where would today's networks be without it? No doubt some informed folk will try to answer that, and other questions, as Ethernet's birthday is celebrated at the Computer History Museum in Montain View, Ca. today. Our very own Valley Wonk, Craig Matsumoto, will be there. But as that party gears up, European telecom executives who work with Carrier Ethernet technology and services every day (even weekends!) have been signing the virtual birthday card. Here's what Matt Finnie, CTO at pan-European service provider Interoute Communications Ltd., had to say:

    "The 40th birthday of Ethernet highlights a lesson that we should all heed as we busily advocate new standards for networking, be it the likes of Software Defined Networking (SDN) or the work of paid-for consortia like the MEF. The most powerful, influential and useful standards of the last 40 years, such as Ethernet, TCP/IP, HTML and SIP have consistently been left competing with new, better alternatives. However, the fact that so many standards have been forgotten as we move forward over the years is testament to a lesson we should carry forward - the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Standards need to be published fast and we shouldn't forget that practice makes perfect. What'll we be celebrating in the next 40 years?"
That's right, Finnie didn't even ring the birthday party door bell -- he just crashed through the garden fence, demanding to know why there wasn't more booze in the punch. And he's already asking who's hosting the next shindig!! Is everyone taking the in-your-face approach to Ethernet's birthday? Not quite. Henry Bohannon, senior director and Head of Ethernet Product Management at Tata Communications Ltd., is in the kitchen, sipping a glass of Chardonnay and eyeing up the Spanish olives while Finnie throws chairs into the swimming pool:
    "Over the past 40 years, Ethernet has completely changed the way we communicate, having a profound impact on the global economy," muses Bohannon. "Initially, Ethernet was as simple as a cable connecting a group of computers to a printer. It slowly evolved, connecting a small network of computers..." [Finnie's shenanigans drown out Bohannon's history lesson for a few minutes before security intervenes and the Tata Comms man can be heard again.] "Ethernet is a high capacity traffic cop, ensuring data, video and information is routing to available lanes," continues Bohannon. "It's a plumber opening up new pipes for water to move through; and because of this plumbing, businesses have been built online. Vast social media sites have come to define our lifestyle and through online financial trading, millionaires have been made. So what does the future hold for the Ethernet? I believe that Ethernet will enable mobile operators to make the most of the next generation superfast 4G and 5G communications. The use of Ethernet in the mobile backhaul from the cell towers to the central network opens the door to more streaming video and video calling, delivering speedier and buffer free access to live broadcasts on your smartphone or tablet. When we look back at how far we've come since 1973, I'm excited about the infinite possibilities of Ethernet that have not yet been realised. Over the next forty years, Ethernet will make us even more connected than we are today, continuing to drive the growth of the digital economy in both developed and emerging markets. "
Party on, Henry! -- Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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