ethernet and switches, was Re: [rescue] Mozilla Firefox

Dave McGuire mcguire at
Thu Apr 22 22:17:05 CDT 2004

On Apr 22, 2004, at 10:56 PM, ed at wrote:
>>> I don't think ethernet is near as bad as its opponents say it is.
>>    BZZZT.  We can go into details if you like.  I'm not sure you want 
>> to
>> go down that road tonight, though, because I'm in a really special
>> mood.
> I'm just sorta curious why you dislike ethernet so much.  Personally, I
> think it was a good idea at the time.

   Yes, it was.  Thirty years ago.

>   But it never scaled well and really after some of the hassles I had 
> to deal with at work this week, I'm pretty much convinced it will 
> never scale well.

   And you're asking why I dislike it??  It sounds like you have your 
own reasons. ;)  But since you asked...I have several issues with 
Ethernet; here are the major points:

  1) It is a kludge..Media access arbitration by detecting noise on the 
     wasn't even a good idea thirty years ago.
  2) That 1500 byte MTU makes Jack a sad boy when transferring large 
amounts of data.
  3) Lack of graceful node insertion or removal...Plug something in, 
expect to
     toast at least one packet in-flight.  Not a practical concern, but 
if it
     were correctly designed, it wouldn't even be an IMpractical concern.
  4) It goes to shit after about 60% utilization.  I want closer to 
100Mbps from
     my "100Mbps" networking technology...but maybe I'm just being a 
dick for
     wanting what I paid for.
  5) Point #4 can be mitigated by making the network fully switched, but 
then you're
     modifying a basic underlying concept of the design to make it work 
right.  I
     don't know about you, but that makes my engineering sense tingle, 
and not
     in a good way.  I'd rather use something that doesn't need 
band-aids in order
     to work right.
  6) Ethernet was designed in a time in which things were much less 
     than they are now...the design reflects this in many areas.  
Nowadays our
     networks are busy all the time, which doesn't map well to 
Ethernet's design.
     Hence point #4 above.

   Ethernet is akin to putting a big Windows PC in the computer room and 
calling it a "server".  It can be done, people do it all the time, it 
can be made to work, but it will never work as well as technology that 
was designed well from the get-go.

   Ethernet was a good idea a long time ago, but it is a long-obsolete 
technology that has been stretched and inflated and upclocked into 
today's computing world.  It should be laid to rest and consigned to 
history where it belongs.  The same can be said for the 
long-dead-but-still-inexplicably-breathing x86 architecture, but who's 

   Could I run all my stuff on Ethernet?  Sure.  I have some machines on 
Ethernet, including the one I'm typing on.  But for income-critical 
things, I prefer to use a cleaner, better-designed technology...even if 
the most visible benefit is my peace of mind, and personal pride in my 
network design.


Dave McGuire          "PC users only know two 'solutions'...
Cape Coral, FL          reboot and upgrade."    -Jonathan Patschke

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