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From Twisting Country Lanes to MultiLane Ethernet SuperHighways

Stuart McRobert
Department of Computing, Imperial College, London


This paper describes a slightly different approach to solving network capacity problems between workstations and servers by significantly increasing the number of conventional Ethernet interfaces on each server from just a few to typically a dozen or more. So rather than installing a single faster network backbone (e.g., FDDI, ATM, Fast Ethernet, etc.) to carry all the traffic to and from the servers, coupled with some form of step down hubs to connect to the local workstation Ethernets, our approach bypasses the backbone completely and brings many local Ethernets directly to each of the servers (typically Sun Sparc Station 10s or 20s). This technique has worked very well for our size of operation with several file and CPU servers, 50+ workstations and around 100 X-terminals, with still room for some further expansion too. Over the past year this approach has been very successful in our main teaching laboratories, significantly reducing network congestion and providing many more well connected networks to support both existing and additional workstations and X- terminals, yet with fewer clients per network, so easing local network contention problems. This, coupled with enhancements to the workstations and servers themselves, has yielded significant performance improvements all round and made for much happier and contented users.

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