FAST NICs<@VM>Need to speed up your network? Prices for these fast NICs range from $10 to $2,995<@VM> Need to speed up your network? Prices for these fast NICs range from $10 to $2,995 (cont.)<@VM>Need to speed up your network? Prices for these fast NICs range from $10 to $2,995 (cont. 2)

These little devices can help you gear up for Gigabit Ethernet speed

By J.B. Miles

Special to GCN

As networks sag under the load of bandwidth-intensive applications and high-end processing requirements, government network designers increasingly are choosing Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet solutions to minimize their traffic bottlenecks.

SMC Network's TigerCard 1000 SMC9462SX provides 1-Gbps speed in a 32/64-bit PCI bus interface. It's priced at $778.

Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet make a great deal of sense for designing high-performance, mission-critical networks. At 100-Mbps, Fast Ethernet handles 10 times the load of 10-Mbps Ethernet; 1-Gbps Gigabit Ethernet multiplies Fast Ethernet's capacity an additional tenfold.

Network design is simplified when migrating from one to another because all flavors of Ethernet employ the same Media Access Control layer interface, packet sizes and error-control techniques. Ethernet, Fast Ethernet and now Gigabit Ethernet can all use inexpensive Category 5 unshielded twisted-pair copper wiring'the same wiring used for telephone service in virtually every office building in the United States.

Hot ticket

Sales of both Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet network interface cards are soaring. A recent NIC market report from Cahners In-Stat Group, a high-tech market research company in Newton, Mass., said Fast Ethernet NICs accounted for about 75 percent of the 53.5 million NICs sold last year and are likely to grab an even higher percentage of the market this year. Sales of asynchronous transfer mode, token-ring, Fiber Distributed Data Interface and 10-Mbps Ethernet NICs are declining accordingly.

Although Fast Ethernet NICs continue to hold the lion's share of the market, Gigabit adapters running on either fiber-optic cable or Category 5 copper wiring represent the fastest-growing market segment.

In a story last year on Fast Ethernet NICs [GCN/Shopper, July 1999, Page 37], I argued that using 10/100-Mbps Fast Ethernet NICs, which enable simultaneous 100-Mbps connections to high-performance, end-user systems and 10-Mbps connections to slower computers, was the best way to future-proof government networks.

My argument today is essentially the same, but the ante can be raised tenfold.

Intel's Pro/100t Server Adapter provides 10/100-Mbps speed with a 32-bit PCI bus master interface. It's priced at $119.

My best advice: Use Fast Ethernet NICs wherever possible; use Gigabit Ethernet NICs wherever they are needed.

The accompanying chart features Fast Ethernet and Gigabit NICs built around 32-bit or 64-bit PCI bus technologies. Thirty-two-bit PCI buses running at 33 MHz are still found in most network servers, although 64-bit PCI buses running at 66 MHz are coming on strong.

There are also products designed around the NuBus, Vera-Module Eurocard bus, EISA or 16-bit ISA buses used in legacy computers.

Check with the manufacturers listed in the chart to see if they have cards using these technologies.

Many manufacturers also provide PC Card NICs for notebook computers.

NICs, also known as adapters, manage the essential connections between network servers or workstations and the network itself. All NICs come with on-board processors, various amounts of RAM and ports for connecting to the network and host server. Most also come with some type of proprietary or generic management software based on the Simple Network Management Protocol or Desktop Management Interface protocols.

The management software allows users to access the NIC and other network components via an SNMP agent, Internet browser or Microsoft Windows console.

Most NICs also come with drivers for common operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows NT and 2000, Novell NetWare and various flavors of Unix.

Adaptec's Quartet64 has four ports with 10/100-Mbps speed and a 64-bit bus master interface. It's priced at $528.

Some other features to check for:

PCI bus. Along with its widespread use in Intel Corp. servers, the benefits of PCI bus technology include bus mastering, a technique by which the network passes requests directly to the NIC, thereby offloading work from the host CPU. Virtually all PCI NICs also work with Windows Plug and Play, meaning they can be automatically set up and configured by the Windows operating system.

Speed. A NIC's speed is determined by two main factors: the number of bits it can handle and the processor it is built around. A 64-bit PCI NIC can process data twice as fast as a 32-bit NIC, but because 32-bit PCI buses are still most commonplace in servers, 32-bit NICs continue to dominate the marketplace.

Most Gigabit NICs can manage both 32-bit and 64-bit PCI buses. As for the processor, check manufacturers' specifications, as many of them offer similar models with different processors.

RAM. The more RAM a NIC has, the faster it can process information. High-end NICs often come with 1M or 2M of RAM and fast processors. Expect them to be priced according to their memory capacity.

Kingston Technologies'
Fast EtheRx has a 32-bit PCI bus master interface with 10/100-Mbps speed.

Port attachments. Most NICs attach to a server via a single port. Those with dual or quad attachments provide extra flexibility and some level of fault tolerance'if one server goes down, another can still run'but cost more.

Full duplex. All Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet NICs are capable of full-duplex operation, meaning they transmit and receive simultaneously, effectively doubling their advertised speed. A 100-Mbps Fast Ethernet NIC can provide 200-Mbps speeds over a dedicated connection to a network switch.

Auto-negotiation. Fast Ethernet NICs can automatically distinguish between 10-Mbps and 100-Mbps data signals and set themselves accordingly. Although many Gigabit Ethernet NICs operate only at 1,000-Mbps speeds, some'such as Asante Technologies Inc.'s GigaNIX and GigaNIC 1064SX and Netgear Inc.'s GA620T'offer full 10/100/1,000-Mbps auto-negotiation. Look for this trend to continue as more Gigabit NICs come to market.

Wake on LAN. Cards with this feature enable network-attached systems to be booted up directly from the server instead of individually.

Media and connectors. Fast Ethernet NICs can utilize both single-mode fiber (SMF) and multimode fiber (MMF) optic cable, but most use the cheaper and ubiquitous Category 5 copper wiring. They generally employ standard RJ-45 connectors. ST connectors are used with single-mode fiber and SC connectors are used with multimode fiber cabling.

J.B. Miles of Pahoa, Hawaii, writes about communications and computers.

VendorProductSpeedBus master interfaceConnectorsMedia supportPort configurationPrice
AccuLan Corp.
Fremont, Calif.
AT-TXPCI10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$16
Adaptec Inc.
Milpitas, Calif.
Single6410/100 Mbps64-bit PCIRJ-45UTP, STPSingle$70
Duo6410/100 Mbps64-bit PCI RJ-45UTP, STPDual$275
Quartet6410/100 Mbps64-bit PCI RJ-45UTP, STPQuad$528
Single3210/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTP, STPSingle$33
Addtron Technology Co. Ltd.
Fremont, Calif.
AEF-360TX10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$15
AEF-362TX 10/100 Mbps32-bit PCI RJ-45UTPSingle$17
Allied Telesyn International Corp.
Sunnyvale, Calif.
AT-2700TX10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$180
AT-2700FX/ST100 Mbps32-bit PCISTMMFSingle$180
AT-2700FX/SC100 Mbps32-bit PCISCMMFSingle$180
AT-2700FX/MT100 Mbps32-bit PCIMT-RJMMFSingle$180
AT-2700FX/VF100 Mbps32-bit PCIVF-45MMFSingle$180
AT-2700FTX/ST10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45, STMMFSingle$180
AT-2745FX/ST10/100 Mbps32-bit PCISTSMFDual$258
AT-2745FX/SC10/100 Mbps32-bit PCISCMMFDual$258
AT-2970SX/SC1 Gbps64-bit PCIST, SCSMF, MMFSingle$680
AT-2970SX/SC1 Gbps64-bitST, SCSMF, MMFDual$1,550
Alteon WebSystems Inc.
San Jose, Calif.
ACEnic 1000Base-T1 Gbps32/64-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$695
ACEnic 1000Base-SX with 512K of RAM1 Gbps32/64-bit PCI SCMMFSingle$995
ACEnic 1000Base-SX with 1M of RAM1 Gbps32/64-bit PCISCMMFSingle$1,795
Antares Microsystems Inc.
Los Gatos, Calif.
P-105810/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45STPSingle$452
P-0075100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45STPQuad$990
Asante Technologies Inc.
San Jose, Calif.
FriendlyNET PCI 59510/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$19
GigaNIX10/100 Mbps/1 Gbps64-bit PCI RJ-45UTPSingle$985
GigaNIC 1064SX for Macs and PCs10/100 Mbps/1 Gbps64-bit PCI SCMMFSingle$995
Compaq Computer Corp.
NC312210/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPDual$306
NC312310/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$82
NC313410/100 Mbps32/64-bit PCIRJ-45, SCUTP, MMFDual$229
NC6134 (SX)1 Gbps32/64-bit PCISCMMFSingle$625
Compex Inc.
Anaheim, Calif.
FL100TX/WOL10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$54
FL400TX-PCI10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPQuad$249
FL6400TX-PCI10/100 Mbps64-bit PCI RJ-45UTPQuad$315
RL100ATX-PCI10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$19
FL1000SX-PCI1 Gbps32-bit PCI ST, SCSMF, MMFSingle$929
Danpex Corp.
San Jose, Calif.
AGP51001 Gbps32/64-bit PCISCMMFSingle$499
AGP52001 Gbps32/64-bit PCIVF-45MMFSingle$549
AGP53001 Gbps32/64-bit PCIMT-RJMMFSingle$549
ADP110010/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$20
ADP150010/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$35
ADP160010/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$37
D-Link Systems Inc.
Irvine, Calif.
DFE-530TX10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$25
DFE-570TX10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPQuad$189
DGE-500SX1 Gbps64-bit PCI SCMMFSingle$520
Edimax Computer Co.
Santa Clara, Calif.
EN-913010/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$29
EN-9130A10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$35
EN-912010/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$29
EN-911310/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPQuad$29
Farallon Communications Inc.
San Leandro, Calif.
PN-9000-SX1 Gbps32/64-bit PCISCMMFSinge$1,043
PN996/PN996L10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSinge$40

VendorProductSpeedBus master interfaceConnectorsMedia supportPort configurationPrice
Hawking Technologies Inc.
Irvine, Calif.
PN102TX10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$21
IBM Corp.
Armonk, N.Y.
10/100 Ethernet Adapter10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$39
10/100 EtherJet Secure Management Adapter 10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$95
10/100 EtherJet PCI Management Adapter10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$75
Netfinity 10/100 Ethernet Security Adapter10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$109
Netfinity 10/100 Ethernet PCI Adapter 210/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$99
Netfinity Gigabit Ethernet SX Adapter1 Gbps32/64-bit PCISCMMFSingle$645
Intel Corp.
Santa Clara, Calif.
PRO/100 S Management Adapter10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$112
PRO/100+ Management Adapter10/100 Mbps32-bit PCI RJ-45UTPSingle$93
PRO/100 VE Desktop Adapter10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$39
PRO/1000 F Server Adapter1 Gbps32/64-bit PCISCMMFSingle$795
PRO/1000 S Server Adapter10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$139
PRO/100+ Server Adapter10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$119
Pro/100+ Dual Port Server Adapter10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPDual$299
Pro/100 Intelligent Server Adapter10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45, MIIUTPSingle$399
Jaton Corp.
Milpitas, Calif.
XpressNet10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$12
Kingston Technology Co.
Fountain Valley, Calif.
EtheRx PCI Model KNE100TX10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$36
EtheRx VPII KNE111TX10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$23
Fast EtheRx KNE120TX10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$28
Irvine, Calif.
LNE100TX 10/100 Mbps32-bit PCI RJ-45UTPSingle$19
Netgear Inc.
Santa Clara, Calif.
GA620T10/100 Mbps/1 Gbps32/64-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$465
GA6201 Gbps32/64-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$465
FA310TX10/100 Mbps32-bit PCI RJ-45UTPSingle$27
FA311TX10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$27
FA31210/100 Mbps32-bit PCI RJ-45UTPSingle$32
Osicom Technologies Inc.
Naperville, Ill.
OLN-2424-TX10/100 Mbps32/64-bit PCIRJ-45UTPQuad$895
OLN-2451-TX10/100 Mbps32/64-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$520
OLN-2452-TX10/100 Mbps32/64-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$520
OvisLink Technologies Corp.
City of Industry, Calif.
LFE-8139A TX10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$13
Phobos Corp.
Salt Lake City
P43010/100 Mbps32/64-bit PCIRJ-45, VF-45UTPQuad$495
P10001 Gbps32/64-bit PCIST, SCSMF, MMFSingle$1,995
Phoebe Micro Inc.
Sunnyvale, Calif.
NWK10/100PCI10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$10

VendorProductSpeedBus master interfaceConnectorsMedia supportPort configurationPrice
Racore Technology Corp.
Salt Lake City
OptiCORE 100FX100 Mbps32-bit PCIVF-45MMFSingle$159
OptiCORE 100FX MT-RJ100 Mbps32-bit PCIMT-RJMMFSingle$229
OptiCORE 100FX ST100 Mbps32-bit PCISTSMFSingle$199
OptiCORE 100FX SC100 Mbps32-bit PCISCMMFSingle$199
SMC Networks Inc.
Irvine, Calif.
TigerCard 1000 SMC9462SX1 Gbps32/64-bit PCISCMMFSingle$778
SMC9462SX EtherPower II SMC9432TX10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$79
EtherPower II SMC9432BTX10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPDual$95
EtherPower II SMC9432FTX-SC10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45, SCUTP, MMFDual$255
EtherPower II SMC9432FTX-ST10/100 Mbps32-bit PCI RJ-45, STUTP, MMFDual$271
EtherPower II SMC9432VFL10/100 Mbps32-bit PCI VF-45UTP, MMFSingle$190
Sun Microsystems Computer Co.
Mountain View, Calif.
Gigabit Ethernet Adapter 2.01 Gbps32/64-bit PCISCMMFSingle$2,095
Quad FastEthernet 4-port PCI Card10/100 Mbps32-bit PCI RJ-45UTPQuad$1,795
SysKonnect Inc.
San Jose, Calif.
SK-NET GE-T Model SK-98211 Gbps32/64-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$729
SK-NET GE-T Model SK-98221 Gbps32/64-bit PCIRJ-45UTPDual$1,595
SK-NET GE-LX Model SK-98411 Gbps32/64-bit PCI STSMFSingle$1,895
SK-NET GE-LX Model SK-98421 Gbps32/64-bit PCISTSMFDual$2,995
SK-NET GE-SX SK-9843 (SX)1 Gbps32/64-bit PCISCMMFSingle$729
SK-NET GE-SX Model SK-98441 Gbps32/64-bit PCISCMMFDual$1,595
3Com Corp.
Santa Clara, Calif.
3CSOHO100-TX10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$70
3CR990-TX-9510/100 Mbps32-bit PCI RJ-45UTPSingle$120
3CR990-TX-9710/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$120
3C905B-TX-NM10/100 Mbps32-bit PCI RJ-45UTPSingle$97
3C905C-TX-NM10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$103
3CR990SVR9710/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$129
3CR990SVR9710/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$129
3C980C-TXM10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$109
3C985B-SX1 Gbps32/64-bit PCISCMMFSingle$895
Trendware International Inc.
Torrance, Calif.
TEGPCISX100 Mbps64-bit PCISCMMFSingle$280
TE100-PCIA10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTP/STPSingle$75
TE100-PCIE10/100 Mbps32-bit PCI RJ-45UTPSingle$16
TE100-PCIFX100 Mbps32-bit PCISCMMFSingle$149
TE100-PCIWA10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$15
TE100-PCIWN10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$14
Unicom Electric Inc.
Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
FEP-4206-EP10/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPSingle$19
FEP-4208-C100 Mbps32-bit PCISCMMFSingle$19
FEP-4208-T100 Mbps32-bit PCISTMMFSingle$19
ZNYX Corp.
Fremont, Calif.
ZX412U310/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPDual$664
ZX412U610/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPDual$711
ZX414U310/100 Mbps32-bit PCI RJ-45UTPQuad$949
ZX414U610/100 Mbps32-bit PCIRJ-45UTPQuad$993

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