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Proceedings Paper

Gigabit ATM: another technical mistake?
Author(s): Paul Christ
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Paper Abstract

Once upon a time, or more precisely during February 1988 at the CCITT Seoul plenary, and definitely arriving as a revolution, ATM hit the hard-core B-ISDN circuit-switching gang. Initiated by the Telecoms' camp, but, surprisingly, soon to be pushed by computer minded people, ATM's generic technological history is somewhat richer than single-sided stories. Here are two classical elements of that history: Firstly, together with X.25, ATM suffers from the connection versus datagram dichotomy, well known for more than twenty years. Secondly, and lesser known, ATM's use of cells in support of the 'I' of B-ISDN was questioned from the very beginning by the packet switching camp. Furthermore, in this context, there are two other essential elements to be considered: Firstly, the exponential growth of the Internet and later intranets, using Internet technology, sparked by the success of the Web and the WINTEL alliance, resulted in a corresponding demand for both aggregate and end-system network bandwidth. Secondly, servers, historically restricted to the exclusive club of HIPPI-equipped supercomputers, suddenly become ordinary high-end PCs with 64-bit wide PCI busses -- definitely aiming at the Gigabit. Here, if your aim is for Gigabit ATM with 5000-transactions per second classical supercomputers, a 65K ATM MTU -- as implemented by Cray -- might be okay. Following Clark and others, another part of the story is the adoption and redefinition, by the IETF, of the Telecoms' notion of 'Integrated Services' and QoS mechanisms. The quest for low-delay IP packet forwarding, perhaps possible over ATM cut-throughs, has resulted in the switching versus/or integrated-with-routing movement. However, a blow for ATM may be the recent results concerning fast routing table lookup algorithms. This, by making Gigabit routing possible using ordinary Pentium processors may eventually render the much prophesized ATM switching performance unnecessary. Recently, with the rise of Gigabit Ethernet, many of the elements mentioned above are now being presented by standard 'Gigabit Ethernet and Gigabit ATM -- friends or foes' conferences. In- depth analyses are given concerning the canonical elements of such a setting: legacy, new use requirements, manageability, security LAN-WAN, architectures, standards, technologies and products, complexity, evolution-transition strategies, manufacturers, player organizations etc. Often in such conferences, Fiber Channel, being one of Gigabit Ethernet's physical media, is presented as the only other Gigabit LAN technology. In an attempt to sum up: Given the present state of ATM deployment measured in terms of functionalities and sophistication, after ten years of CCCITT/ITU and almost as many years of ATM Forum effort, does the question still being asked now represent the answer -- ATM is or was a mistake there some elements still missing? Here's a technical and a political example:

Paper Details

Date Published: 16 September 1998
PDF: 2 pages
Proc. SPIE 3408, Broadband European Networks and Multimedia Services, (16 September 1998); doi: 10.1117/12.321901
Show Author Affiliations
Paul Christ, Univ. Stuttgart (Germany)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 3408:
Broadband European Networks and Multimedia Services
Stephan Fischer; Ralf Steinmetz; Heinrich J. Stuettgen; Harmen R. van As; Roberto Vercelli, Editor(s)

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