Are you ready for GigE to the desktop?

You could hear the reluctance in their voices. Network executives who attended the first leg of Network World’s (US) State of the LAN/MAN tour were vocal in expressing their concerns about Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop.

While companies such as Alcatel SA, Cisco Systems Inc., Extreme Networks Inc., Finisar Corp. and Foundry Networks Inc. were describing the glories of Gigabit Ethernet-enabled desktops, network managers in the audience were wincing. They say it’s all going too fast.

They worry that there will be too much juice going into PCs, raising unreasonable expectations among end users. They worry about their cable infrastructure not being able to support Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop. They worry about bottlenecks popping up elsewhere. They worry about the lack of applications tuned to run at gigabit speeds.

Pshaw, the vendors say. Foundry’s Joe Tomasello rattled off a litany of current and emerging applications that would make good use of the firepower: medical imagery, digital content creation, data warehousing, data mining and cluster computing.

Others on the panel jumped to his defence, saying the list of applications that can take advantage of gigabit to the desk is growing – interactive gaming, interactive video, interactive everything.

The audience remained skittish. Many wanted to known how soon they need to start outfitting their shops to support Gigabit Ethernet, and how soon before they need to trudge into the CxO’s office asking for a budget increase?

One attendee, who was doing a forklift upgrade to a new headquarters several blocks from his old one, said even with the budget freedom that comes with moving to a new building, he couldn’t see justifying the move to Gigabit Ethernet.

But companies such as Dell Computer Corp. are pushing ahead. Dell says that 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet will be standard on all commercial desktops within two years via LAN on Motherboard technology. IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and other PC makers are similarly bullish on Gigabit Ethernet.

In other words, Gigabit Ethernet will be on the desktop in short order, whether you want it there or not. Of course, you don’t have to turn it on, and can simply continue to run Fast Ethernet or 10Mbps Ethernet, but once end users have a capability on their desktop, they tend to want to use it to the fullest extent.

One attendee summed up the discussion by saying Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop is a technology with no problem to solve.