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Why We Don't Need Gigabit Networks (Yet) 359

AmyVernon writes "Most computers today can't support gigabit connections and current Wi-Fi networks can't offer those speeds either. The first trial of Sonic.Net's gigabit network was a speed test on a generic laptop that showed off 420 Mbps down; the laptop couldn't handle a full gig. Plus, few applications need those speeds. It's hard to justify such a huge investment in a network that will have few subscribers and few applications that need it. Of course, that can change, and then these networks will be vital. This story has a good analysis of where things stand and what has to change."
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Why We Don't Need Gigabit Networks (Yet)

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 11, 2011 @03:56PM (#37370226)

    Gigabit networks are important when working with almost any kind of file copy. I am not sure the last time someone tried to backup even just 100GB of data (Think backups) over a 100 megabit network. Copies like that can take for ever a fully saturate 100 megabit network and slow down traffic for everyone. While copies over gigabit rarely use the entire pipe its good to know that there is still bandwidth left over for other tasks.

    • by buyvalve ( 1152115 ) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @03:59PM (#37370260)
      It's not too clear from the title but the article is referring to internet connections, not home/business networks.
      • by mmcuh ( 1088773 )
        The point is still valid if you're doing any sort of off-site backup, or work with large data files (e.g. HD video) that you want to send to and receive from other people.
        • This. I take large amounts of disk images, and it's really not worthwhile to do this anywhere but Gigabit, so I don't do it offsite.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Dahamma ( 304068 )

          They aren't saying it's not needed for businesses, just most home users. And no need to argue that some home users still need it - those 0.1% might as well be qualified as businesses. Also, the article already mentions that off-site backups would be useful, but any decent backup system is incremental so the major benefit is only a one time thing.

          Not that I'm saying I completely agree with the article - you and I may be in those 0.1% :) It is kind of dumb to use a laptop getting 420Mbps sustained as an e

          • or we could finally kill the redundant cable tv connection and have EVERYthing through the internet, as it should be. That way when the internet gets better, everything else does too. So much silly redundancy in infrastructure. Besides netflix+downloading computer updates while Skyping while your kids are doing the same thing in two different rooms. It adds up.
          • If your LAN isn't a switched network, and so would saturate connections between all machines if a single one is throwing the same bandwidth down the uplink, I feel real sorry for you, oh right, I forgot, that's only a problem today on wifi networks where they are all operating in the same area on the same frequency. Not on wired networks where a switch can full handle ARP routing down hundreds of dedicated cables no problem if needed.
      • Yes, as are needed for off site backups, or for pushing it across that VPN. Yes, most laptop chipsets will not reach the full 1Gbit, but that's only a matter of time before that changes. When 100Mbit came out, chipsets tended not to be able to fully operate at those speeds, now we can max it out on pretty much any device.
    • I think the gist of the article is that we don't need gigabit connections from an isp to the home. While that's debatable, that's not the same as saying that gigbit networks within a home or office are not necessary.

      • My internet connection is 300mbps up/down so I definitely need a gigabit local network. A gigabit internet connection would requite 10gig LAN (so I do not saturate it with the internet data), but would be fun to have, I'm sure various torrent trackers would like me even more than now (on the other hand, I would have to replace most of my non-main PCs since they can barely handle 300mbps).

      • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @08:20PM (#37372014) Homepage Journal

        I read the article as a laptop being too slow because of its drive not handling data that quickly.

        That neatly bypasses a very real need for high speed low latency remote connections where disk speed is irrelevant -- remote desktops, remote apps and VPN, often in combinations. And in combination with other things that suck bandwidth too.

        There's more to bandwidth than file transfers.

    • don't need something is usually looking to take something away or prevent you from acquiring it.

      • Exactly. On top of that, there are a large number of perfectly sensible reasons why ISPs should be installing gigabit networks today:

        Even if 1Gpbs is not materially more useful today than e.g. 100Mbps, we don't actually have 100Mbps connections. And any 100+ connection is materially more useful today than the existing 10-20Mbps connections. So if you already have to roll a truck to do an upgrade you might as well not half ass it, because you can save money in the long run by making it all that much longer b

        • More than that applications scale down to the lowest common connection speed. If that becomes 1Gbps then they could make some seriously amazing apps!

          It's all for not though, greedy ISPs and their data caps make speeds irrelevant (as I sit on a 2Mbps connection which can only average 0.063Mbps due to extremely low data caps).

  • HERETICS! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iCEBaLM ( 34905 ) <> on Sunday September 11, 2011 @03:56PM (#37370228)

    How DARE you say we don't need faster networks! This article should be purged from the interwebs and timothy should be strung up by his gonads for even considering posting it!

    • Re:HERETICS! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by neokushan ( 932374 ) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @04:15PM (#37370384)

      Indeed, it smells of "x should be enough for anyone" and does nothing but stifle progress. The thing with a lot of IT stuff is it's a bit chicken and egg, sometimes just because you don't need something now doesn't mean that someone won't come up with a novel use for it.
      A few years ago, you could have argued that you don't really need much more than 1Mbit down. In an age of 56k modems, 1meg would have certainly made you king of the castle, as it were, but today 1meg isn't nearly enough for basic internet use.

      Furthermore, their example as to why it's not needed - a "generic" laptop couldn't handle it, is rubbish. That's like saying we don't need better fuel sources because our existing power producers can't use it.

    • Re:HERETICS! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by msauve ( 701917 ) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @04:30PM (#37370516)
      The guy being quoted (Jasper) has a pretty weak argument. It's based on there only being a single computer accessing the network. Add in multiple channels of streaming HD video, multiple computers/users in a household, etc., and you can easily fill that pipe that his cheap laptop could only use half of.

      The article is poorly written. It mentions "Jasper's ISP," but Jasper is CEO of an ISP. So is this a competitor offering the gigabit for $70/month? If you dig just a bit, you'll find he sells 10 Mb Ethernet connections for $600/month, so perhaps that's the real reason he doesn't think $70/month for gigabit service makes sense.
      • There's no way that competitor can offer $70/month and not be oversubscribed. Based on the vast gap between the prices, I doubt that they're selling the same product at all.

        That said.. I wouldn't mind being on an oversubscribed gigabit network if I had to be throttled to "only" 10Mb average.... For web browsing, a bunch of brief bursts of however fast you can make it really improves the responsiveness. I would pay a fair price for a product like that, if the average was sufficient for one netflix HD stre

        • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

          Such a service works well with economies of scale...
          A lot of p2p traffic would occur locally, and never need to touch the internet peering... Similarly mirror sites of common downloads could be stored locally.

      • The guy being quoted (Jasper) has a pretty weak argument. It's based on there only being a single computer accessing the network. Add in multiple channels of streaming HD video, multiple computers/users in a household, etc., and you can easily fill that pipe that his cheap laptop could only use half of.

        And of course there is the argument that even his cheap laptop did use half of it, which is 5 times as much as the next-slowest approach offers.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      So they couldn't get a single laptop to fully exploit a gigabit connection?

      Big deal.

      The last ISP commercial I saw showed a house full of devices and some kid trying to upload a school project but unable to because the aggregate network usage of everything in the house was just too much. Clearly someone in the industry realizes that you might have more than one device at home.

      Perhaps if networks were better, there would be a stronger motivation to release devices that can hog a gigabit connection all by thei

  • I am not sure how "one does not need a gbit connection". Even a small file server in 2006 could output more than 70MB/sec (practical test on large files).

    • The problem is that TFA was not correctly edited.

      1. She's talking about gig connections from your home to your ISP.

      2. She's mixing wired and wireless.

      3. She mixes gig and 100Mb/s.

      4. $40 for 100Mb / $70 for gig is NOT a lot of money.

      5. She's wrong. Computers today CAN handle a gig connection.

      6. So what if the cheap router/firewall/whatever you have cannot handle a gig connection (it can probably handle a 100Mb/s connection)? That's the easiest piece for the consumer to replace.

      7. The apps that would use it T

      • Getting the WHOLE movie or song or whatever 100x faster means fewer delays from the consumer's point of view (perception).

        From the consumer's point of view, what's the point of downloading faster than one can listen? I can see only two reasons: 1. to skip around in the file, which could be handled with out-of-order downloading techniques such as HTTP range requests; or 2. when a handheld media playert will soon be moved out of reach of a fixed Internet connection (the download at home and watch in back seat/bus/train/plane scenario).

        • From the consumer's point of view, what's the point of downloading faster than one can listen?

          Most of the systems out there already download faster than you can watch / listen to the content.

          But they still have issues where there are delays and the play-back has to pause and "buffer" more content.

          Simply put, the longer the download process is (all the way down to receiving the packets a microsecond before playing them) the more likely it is that something will cause packets to be lost or delayed and the sys

        • Out-of-order downloading still works best over a fast link, though, because you want those out-of-order frames to come in quickly so you can stick them up right away....

        • by tsotha ( 720379 )

          From the consumer's point of view, what's the point of downloading faster than one can listen?

          People I know who do lots of torrent downloading grab pretty much everything they might be interested in someday. They have stacks of hard drives full of movies, and then they don't watch most of it, because you can only watch so many movies. I can see why someone like that would want to have a terrabit fiber to his bedroom. What's less clear is why I would want to pay extra in taxes or connection fees to suppor

      • by ThorGod ( 456163 )

        Yeah, I hear you. I'd love to be able to backup my files to my friend's house. Offsite backup on the cheap? Yes please!

        (As for how safe an option his house is, well, I know where he lives.)

        • by volsung ( 378 )

          For the software end of this, check out CrashPlan. It saves incremental backups of your system to external hard drives, your friend's computer (also running CrashPlan) and/or the CrashPlan servers. It's great stuff, and works on Win/Mac/Linux. Plus, your backup data is encrypted before it leaves your computer, so you don't have to worry about the security of your friend's computer. (By default, your data can be decrypted on the CrashPlan server in order to support web access to your files. If you don't

          • by ThorGod ( 456163 )

            If I had the bandwidth, I'd just use some combination of freebsd, ZFS, rsync, scp, and/or FreeBSD's "gmirror" facility. (zfs send over an ssh tunnel, for instance.)

      • by IrquiM ( 471313 )
        100mbit is not enough when you get 3 streams of HD TV channels, and at the same time want to surf the interwebs. 1gbit might be more than you need right now, but 100mbit is not enough... I'm glad I've got fiber directly into the house.
  • by gordo3000 ( 785698 ) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @04:02PM (#37370282)

    I have 2 computers, a ps3, and a wii connected to the net. even if I am doing something simple like streaming a movie from one computer to the ps3 to watch on my tv while someone else is playing a game online, downloading something or the other, or just generally using the web to watch anything in HD, I could easily find a use for that bandwidth.

    • Good point. A home subnet with only one "generic laptop" on it doesn't need gigabit Ethernet. I don't know of any subnets like that either.
    • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

      Utilize gigabit *in* the home, sure. gigabit *to* the home - not as easily. In your example you'd still probably only be using 20-30Mbps over your Internet connection, unless your computer and PS3 are not in the same home :)

  • by Above ( 100351 ) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @04:07PM (#37370324)

    The reason this post is stupid is that infrastructure is long term. When you go to the trouble of sending out a crew to dig up and put fiber in the ground your putting in an infrastructure asset that should have a 15-30 year lifespan. The fact that can average machine can't saturate it today means we're being forward thinking.

    • bingo! dial-up was "fine," but without future-minded broadband infrastructure (as we know it today), we'd never have had services like netflix,, pandora, or skype.

      if you build a road just for the number of cars that would travel it today, you'll have a road that is too small by the time that it is done.

    • The reason this post is stupid is that infrastructure is long term. When you go to the trouble of sending out a crew to dig up and put fiber in the ground your putting in an infrastructure asset that should have a 15-30 year lifespan. The fact that can average machine can't saturate it today means we're being forward thinking.

      Also, data center LANs benefit from internal high speeds.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @04:10PM (#37370330)

    ... and 640K computers.

    Build a faster network and someone will invent more devices to connect to the network to shove around data that they don't need.

  • by vlm ( 69642 )

    Plus, few applications need those speeds.

    That, I can agree with. How many high def uncompressed live video feeds can a household watch?

    For example, ATSC "over the air HDTV" is only 20 megabits/sec, so I could watch 50 HDTV channels simultaneously...

    • So basically, you just replaced your Cable Company with an online only service, giving you 50 hi def channels for cheap. That is a GOOD thing, since it takes the LOCAL Monopoly out of TV.

      (oh, and how many houses only have 1 computer ?)

      • by vlm ( 69642 )

        So basically, you just replaced your Cable Company with an online only service, giving you 50 hi def channels for cheap. That is a GOOD thing, since it takes the LOCAL Monopoly out of TV.

        (oh, and how many houses only have 1 computer ?)

        Our house only has 4 people and 3 TVs, all with mythtv frontends. I could watch live TV on my computer, making 4 streams. It would be very challenging to find 80 megabits of live HDTV to watch simultaneously... Not the "find a signal" but the "worth watching" critera... Assuming its possible, that leaves the other 920 megabits of my "gig" service unused.

        I am uninterested in sports, but I once ate lunch at a sports-bar that could probably make use of a large fraction of a gig, if they showed different stre

    • by ColaMan ( 37550 )

      Or watch one and record the other 49.

      Mind you, once you trim out all the ads, reality TV, "OW, my balls!"-style shows and the self-serving "OMG, this is a show about celebrities!" crap, you really only have a need for 5, maybe 10 kilobits/sec on average.

      • Mind you, once you trim out all the ads, reality TV, "OW, my balls!"-style shows and the self-serving "OMG, this is a show about celebrities!" crap, you really only have a need for 5, maybe 10 kilobits/sec on average.

        Look, if you want to go with that argument, you could transmit all of 'good' TV with a 300 baud modem.

  • by ThorGod ( 456163 ) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @04:14PM (#37370368) Journal

    "So we’re stuck at a point where a gigabit — or even 100 Mbps – sounds awesome, but it’s not exactly worth the prices most companies want (or need to charge). This is why Google’s and Sonic.Net’s plans to expand moderately priced 100 Mbps and gigabit networks will be so important."

    The summary to this article is misleading. It led me to write a mini-rant about the usefulness of gigabit LANs. In fact, the article's talking about gigabit WAN connections at the home. Their denouncement has the tinge of that old Microsoft exec quote about the internet being a fad and no one needing very much ram.

    “If every consumer has 100 Mbps, we’d have some better applications,” Jasper said. ” At 100 Mbps, high-def video conferencing becomes a reality and you don’t need local storage anymore. You don’t even need local computing.”

    You went from talking about gigabit WANs (at the corporate level), to the use of fast ethernet WAN at home. Somehow, there's a use-case at the home that isn't there at the corporation.

    And this made /. frontpage, why? Can I get a +5 comment simply by using the words "100 mbps, gigabit, ethernet, 802.11[n-z], important, high-def, local, storage, computing" ?

  • by mario_grgic ( 515333 ) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @04:14PM (#37370376)
    is not for one computer to saturate it, but for 10 machines to get decent throughput simultaneously.
    • by Inda ( 580031 )
      And this is the exact reason why my neighbour needs a Gigabit connection to go with his unsecured wireless network.

      It's like molasses tonight, and the connection is a bit slow too.
  • "640k ought to be enough for anyone." "There is a world-wide market for about fifteen computers."

    Time and time again people have been deeply mistaken about anything having to do with the future of computing. The first time I saw a VGA display I was so smitten that I thought "this is the best it can be". Well I was wrong and so were a lot of other people who thought that there would never be a need for something more advanced than what technology has to offer today.

    We expand technology by pushing against th

  • So, just because a single "generic laptop" was sold with a crap GigE card then no one should be able to get such a connection?

    It looks like a desperate attempt to bullshit their clients into believing that they want what they really want but the ISPs don't want to provide, and instead what they really want is what the ISPs is already providing. It's the "640kb is enough for everyone" shtick, but bullshittier.

    • I plugged my DSL cable into my laptop's modem, and when I dialed up to Earthlink I only got 48.2Kbps. So my laptop can't even use my whole 7Mbps DSL connection, and therefore no one needs that crap.

  • Stupid article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @04:19PM (#37370410) Journal
    Tonight, I will want to watch a movie on netflix. So will my wife. So will my daughter. And they won't be the same movie. Now, 'splain to me how a gigabit (or multigigabit) connection is going to stand in the way of our individual entertainment needs? Oh, that's right, it won't. In fact it will foster greater consumption of digital goods. Now, explain how a gigabit or multigigabit connection is going to hinder that kind of commerce. Oh, that's right - it won't. In fact, it will do just the opposite.

    When you wake up to the obvious facts of 1999, let me know, and I'll give you an invite to the 21st century. Cuz I'm k3vvL and rollz like dat.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      And all that would be at most 3x54Mbit = 162 Mbit if you're streaming three BluRays. Currently I'm on a 60/60 Mbit/s connection (as in real, I've had 6+ MB/s actual transfer speeds) and honestly it's just ridiculously fast. I'd certainly take higher if they were reasonably priced for bragging rights (they offer up to 800 Mbit/s now, but for absurd prices) but it's not really many places I'd need it. Sure, that 20GB download from steam could be a little faster but really... it's fast. By the time I've watche

  • So useing 1 system and a laptop for that is a poor test.

    Why not test a desktop system? A system with a SDD?

    Test with 2 systems on the same link at the same time?

  • There's no point in having gigabit networks, network cards can't handle that traffic.
    There's no point in having network cards handle that much data, networks don't have that kind of capacity.
  • Time to recycle those old Novell Netware licenses !

  • 100 Mbps and 1,000 Mbps costs the same. Both require FTTH and the expensive part is the fiber. The equipment to run gigabit on that fiber is almost the same cost as 100 Mbps equipment.

    Gigabit internet is also not expensive. It turns out that most people do not use huge amounts of bandwidth just because it is possible. They will take advantage of faster download and upload speeds. They will do offsite backups. But since that backup now is 10 times faster it takes 10 times shorter. When you are done, someone

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @04:27PM (#37370494)
    There are about 200 people who use my department's network at any given time during the day, and maybe 50 at night. All the desktops have their filesystems mounted on NFS, and people routinely upload or download large datasets. Gigabit networking is not even fast enough for what we do (yet somehow we have trouble getting that much installed).
  • And other bloated tech.. and we will never need it.

  • GigE comes on nearly every new computer. Consumer GigE routers and switches are marginally more expensive than their 10/100 equivalents. Most home media appliances are GigE. Nearly any home NAS you can buy has GigE. Most Cat5e cable can handle GigE speeds. Why would you bother buying 10/100 equipment? Even if your ISP isn't yet capable of it, there is plenty of application for it in the home, and it's conceivable that consumer-grade services provided by US ISPs will break the 100Mb barrier in the next five
  • If God had intended man to fly, he would have given him wings.
  • As a Virgin Media customer, I need gigabit internets as the upstream will be ( if the ratio is similar to my current service ) 60Mbit.

  • I remember reading a PC Magazine review back in early 87 or so, talking about the recently released Intel 386 processor.
    (paraphrasing) "No one needs that kind of speed at home. This is strictly for business servers."

    Speed it up, and they will come.
  • This is like saying back in the dialup days "who needs speeds faster than a T1? It's not like the text is going to get read any faster"

    Going to faster throughput makes other things possible that previously weren't.

    I don't see the Koreans or the Swedes giving up their fast-as-shit-through-a-goose internet connections because "they don't need it."


  • This is the most pathetic excuse for an article ever posted by Slashdot. It's complete bunk.

    Gigabit NICs are standard equipment. Just because a single machine can't saturate the link due to other IO bottlenecks doesn't make the technology premature or useless. It just means you've got a really, really crappy laptop.

  • 'when for today’s applications, a cable modem offering 12-14 Mbps down will do just fine?'

    So we can get better applications. So Netflix can stream without butchering the content like it currently does. Because you really have to worry about multiple users and aggregation. You can really see this with GoToMeeting and WebEx: I don't care what their service claims are, every time we have more than a couple people on a meeting the voice and video are crap.

    How about the up being much more constrained than

  • "I see a worldwide market for maybe four or five computers"

    "It's very interesting, but I cannot foresee any practical application"

    etc etc blah blah blah.

    • by gig ( 78408 )

      Bill Gates, 1999: "I don't understand why Jobs is back at Apple. He must know he can't win."

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) * on Sunday September 11, 2011 @05:22PM (#37370912)

    My organization is on the verge of needing to move our equipment to 10gig soon, because the 1gig network is starting to become a serious bottleneck...

  • Gee... what third world country or year is the OP posting from??? My workstation, built in 2007, supports GigE and is capable of speeds nearing the theoretical limit, just as it can on a 100Mbps link. I also have several of my servers connected on the same GigE VLAN. As for 10Gig... my old employer had racks and racks of servers which we tested and found to be able to use a significant portion of a 10Gig link. Of course, these systems were using NICs which were at the time (about 2 years ago) running ab

  • by data2 ( 1382587 ) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @05:40PM (#37371028)

    I have heard this argument so many times before, but it is just stupid to say: You can only use 400MBit, so better keep your 100MBit instead of getting that full GBit, as you would not be able to use it fully. It might not be 10 times faster, but it still is 4 times faster, which might well be worth the price to some.

  • Speed is not important, latency is. And even more so are the current problems with buffers.

    Here is a presentation on the subject: []

    Here is the website which deals with the problem and is trying to fix any problems in Linux (drivers and TCP/IP stack): []

  • Obviously, you plug the Gigabit Ethernet into a router and serve multiple computers with Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Then you can run Netflix all day in the living room and still have fast access from other systems.

    And all Macs have had Gigabit Ethernet since the turn of the century, with the exception of older MacBook Air models that don't have Thunderbolt. That is a lot of data heavy users, video people and so on.

    And any machine with Thunderbolt or PCI-Express has a faster connection than Gigabit, so the idea tha

  • For once can we not get the damn network in place and let everything else fall in line later? It'll make the transition much nicer than waiting until everything else is in place and waiting for the network bottle neck to go away.
  • by dave562 ( 969951 ) on Sunday September 11, 2011 @07:38PM (#37371848) Journal

    Of course the summary leaves out the part of the conversation where bandwidth is also a measure of well, bandwidth. Just because one single individual device can only get ~500MB does not mean that GbE is worthless. What if there are two laptops sharing that connection? It will be tapped out. Put another one on there and all of a sudden a one gig pipe is not big enough.

    How stupid are people, really?

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