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Gigabit Ethernet--The Core of the Network

January 1999
Gigabit ethernet is fast becoming an industry standard. Do you know what it is? More important, do you know what it can do to bolster the networking power of your most demanding RIP workstation or workgroup server? Better find out—your competition may already be capitalizing on this ethernet craze.


Centralized content. As more and more digitally minded commercial printers exploit the merits of faster desktop publishing workstations and higher performance servers, fast ethernet functionality is becoming the standard connection. But, for truly high performance networking, gigabit ethernet is making some serious strides.

What is gigabit ethernet?

Put simply, "gigabit" is a networking technology that allows a commercial printer to transfer more data around its organization faster at 1,000 mbps—1,000 megabits or 1,000,000 bits of data per second—roughly a 10 times improvement over fast ethernet.

"In other words, it's a much fatter pipe for data to flow through," explains John Marshall, industry marketing manager for media and entertainment at 3Com. "Furthermore, it is a familiar technology, similar to fast ethernet, so it protects a commercial printer's MIS and production employees from the need to learn an entirely new technology, which translates into saved training dollars."

So, where does gigabit ethernet fit into a commercial printer's network? Gigabit ethernet best fits as a connectivity solution—a backbone technology—that provides significantly higher bandwidth capabilities, allowing demanding RIP workstations and abused workgroup servers to function faster.

Acting as a pipeline for digital information, gigabit ethernet allows graphic arts organizations to utilize a significantly higher bandwidth for work on RIP workstations and an array of other workgroup components. Gigabit ethernet can increase the overall throughput of a prepress department, typically by a factor of four times to 15 times, thereby allowing prepress personnel to handle more tasks per day.

Picture this: Ten prepress personnel are all working on separate files. One is retouching color, a second is manipulating images, a third selecting fonts, a fourth is scanning art and formatting the art on a template, and so on. All 10 people are gaining access to the server at the same time through a traditional server route.

"Imagine 10 people all trying to sip 10 ounces of water per second through a thin straw. And each of those 10 straws is connected to another main straw, which is connected to the water source," 3Com's Marshall suggests. "Now, imagine your server is the water source, with all these different workstations tapping into it for data. You are going to need one very fat straw connecting all these smaller straws to the water source—otherwise, only one out of 10 employees will work productively."

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