Ethernet ( ) is a family of wired technologies commonly used in local area networks (LAN), metropolitan area networks (MAN) and wide area networks (WAN). It was commercially introduced in 1980 and first standardized in 1983 as IEEE 802.3. Ethernet has since been refined to support higher , a greater number of nodes, and longer link distances, but retains much backward compatibility. Over time, Ethernet has largely replaced competing wired LAN technologies such as Token Ring, FDDI and ARCNET.
The original 10BASE5 Ethernet uses a thick coaxial cable as a shared medium. This was largely superseded by 10BASE2, which used a thinner and more flexible cable that was both cheaper and easier to use. More modern Ethernet variants use twisted pair and optical fiber links in conjunction with Network switch. Over the course of its history, Ethernet data transfer rates have been increased from the original to the latest Terabit Ethernet, with rates up to under development. The Ethernet standards include several wiring and signaling variants of the Physical layer.
Systems communicating over Ethernet divide a stream of data into shorter pieces called frames. Each frame contains source and destination addresses, and error-checking data so that damaged frames can be detected and discarded; most often, higher-layer protocols trigger retransmission of lost frames. Per the OSI model, Ethernet provides services up to and including the data link layer. The 48-bit MAC address was adopted by other IEEE 802 networking standards, including IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi), as well as by FDDI. EtherType values are also used in Subnetwork Access Protocol (SNAP) headers.
Ethernet is widely used in homes and industry, and interworks well with wireless Wi-Fi technologies. The Internet Protocol is commonly carried over Ethernet and so it is considered one of the key technologies that make up the Internet.
Metcalfe left Xerox in June 1979 to form 3Com. He convinced Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), Intel, and Xerox to work together to promote Ethernet as a standard. As part of that process Xerox agreed to relinquish their 'Ethernet' trademark.
Ethernet initially competed with Token Ring and other proprietary protocols. Ethernet was able to adapt to market needs and with 10BASE2, shift to inexpensive thin coaxial cable and from 1990, to the now-ubiquitous twisted pair with 10BASE-T. By the end of the 1980s, Ethernet was clearly the dominant network technology. In the process, 3Com became a major company. 3Com shipped its first 10 Mbit/s Ethernet 3C100 NIC in March 1981, and that year started selling adapters for PDP-11s and , as well as Multibus-based Intel and Sun Microsystems computers.
Since then, Ethernet technology has evolved to meet new bandwidth and market requirements. In addition to computers, Ethernet is now used to interconnect appliances and other mobile device. As Industrial Ethernet it is used in industrial applications and is quickly replacing legacy data transmission systems in the world's telecommunications networks. By 2010, the market for Ethernet equipment amounted to over $16 billion per year.
Delays in the standards process put at risk the market introduction of the Xerox Star workstation and 3Com's Ethernet LAN products. With such business implications in mind, David Liddle (General Manager, Xerox Office Systems) and Metcalfe (3Com) strongly supported a proposal of Fritz Röscheisen (Siemens Private Networks) for an alliance in the emerging office communication market, including Siemens' support for the international standardization of Ethernet (April 10, 1981). Ingrid Fromm, Siemens' representative to IEEE 802, quickly achieved broader support for Ethernet beyond IEEE by the establishment of a competing Task Group "Local Networks" within the European standards body ECMA TC24. In March 1982, ECMA TC24 with its corporate members reached an agreement on a standard for CSMA/CD based on the IEEE 802 draft. Because the DIX proposal was most technically complete and because of the speedy action taken by ECMA which decisively contributed to the conciliation of opinions within IEEE, the IEEE 802.3 CSMA/CD standard was approved in December 1982. IEEE published the 802.3 standard as a draft in 1983 and as a standard in 1985.IEEE 802.3-2008, p.iv
Approval of Ethernet on the international level was achieved by a similar, cross-partisan action with Fromm as the liaison officer working to integrate with International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Technical Committee 83 and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee 97 Sub Committee 6. The ISO 8802-3 standard was published in 1989.
Ethernet stations communicate by sending each other : blocks of data individually sent and delivered. As with other IEEE 802 LANs, adapters come programmed with globally unique 48-bit MAC address so that each Ethernet station has a unique address. The MAC addresses are used to specify both the destination and the source of each data packet. Ethernet establishes link-level connections, which can be defined using both the destination and source addresses. On reception of a transmission, the receiver uses the destination address to determine whether the transmission is relevant to the station or should be ignored. A network interface normally does not accept packets addressed to other Ethernet stations.
An EtherType field in each frame is used by the operating system on the receiving station to select the appropriate protocol module (e.g., an Internet Protocol version such as IPv4). are said to be self-identifying, because of the EtherType field. Self-identifying frames make it possible to intermix multiple protocols on the same physical network and allow a single computer to use multiple protocols together.
Due to the ubiquity of Ethernet, and the ever-decreasing cost of the hardware needed to support it, by 2004 most manufacturers built Ethernet interfaces directly into , eliminating the need for a separate network card.
Original Ethernet's shared coaxial cable (the shared medium) traversed a building or campus to every attached machine. A scheme known as carrier-sense multiple access with collision detection (CSMA/CD) governed the way the computers shared the channel. This scheme was simpler than competing Token Ring or Token Bus technologies. Computers are connected to an Attachment Unit Interface (AUI) transceiver, which is in turn connected to the cable (with thin Ethernet the transceiver is usually integrated into the network adapter). While a simple passive wire is highly reliable for small networks, it is not reliable for large extended networks, where damage to the wire in a single place, or a single bad connector, can make the whole Ethernet segment unusable.
Through the first half of the 1980s, Ethernet's 10BASE5 implementation used a coaxial cable in diameter, later called thick Ethernet or thicknet. Its successor, 10BASE2, called thin Ethernet or thinnet, used the RG-58 coaxial cable. The emphasis was on making installation of the cable easier and less costly.
Since all communication happens on the same wire, any information sent by one computer is received by all, even if that information is intended for just one destination. The network interface card interrupts the CPU only when applicable packets are received: the card ignores information not addressed to it. Use of a single cable also means that the data bandwidth is shared, such that, for example, available data bandwidth to each device is halved when two stations are simultaneously active.
A collision happens when two stations attempt to transmit at the same time. They corrupt transmitted data and require stations to re-transmit. The lost data and re-transmission reduces throughput. In the worst case, where multiple active hosts connected with maximum allowed cable length attempt to transmit many short frames, excessive collisions can reduce throughput dramatically. However, a Xerox report in 1980 studied performance of an existing Ethernet installation under both normal and artificially generated heavy load. The report claimed that 98% throughput on the LAN was observed. This is in contrast with token passing LANs (Token Ring, Token Bus), all of which suffer throughput degradation as each new node comes into the LAN, due to token waits. This report was controversial, as modeling showed that collision-based networks theoretically became unstable under loads as low as 37% of nominal capacity. Many early researchers failed to understand these results. Performance on real networks is significantly better.
In a modern Ethernet, the stations do not all share one channel through a shared cable or a simple Ethernet hub; instead, each station communicates with a switch, which in turn forwards that traffic to the destination station. In this topology, collisions are only possible if station and switch attempt to communicate with each other at the same time, and collisions are limited to this link. Furthermore, the 10BASE-T standard introduced a full duplex mode of operation which became common with Fast Ethernet and the de facto standard with Gigabit Ethernet. In full duplex, switch and station can send and receive simultaneously, and therefore modern Ethernets are completely collision-free.
Shared cable Ethernet is always hard to install in offices because its bus topology is in conflict with the star topology cable plans designed into buildings for telephony. Modifying Ethernet to conform to twisted pair telephone wiring already installed in commercial buildings provided another opportunity to lower costs, expand the installed base, and leverage building design, and, thus, twisted-pair Ethernet was the next logical development in the mid-1980s.
Ethernet on unshielded twisted-pair cables (UTP) began with StarLAN at 1 Mbit/s in the mid-1980s. In 1987 SynOptics introduced the first twisted-pair Ethernet at 10 Mbit/s in a star-wired cabling topology with a central hub, later called LattisNet.
Despite the physical star topology and the presence of separate transmit and receive channels in the twisted pair and fiber media, repeater-based Ethernet networks still use half-duplex and CSMA/CD, with only minimal activity by the repeater, primarily generation of the jam signal in dealing with packet collisions. Every packet is sent to every other port on the repeater, so bandwidth and security problems are not addressed. The total throughput of the repeater is limited to that of a single link, and all links must operate at the same speed.
To alleviate these problems, bridging was created to communicate at the data link layer while isolating the physical layer. With bridging, only well-formed Ethernet packets are forwarded from one Ethernet segment to another; collisions and packet errors are isolated. At initial startup, Ethernet bridges work somewhat like Ethernet repeaters, passing all traffic between segments. By observing the source addresses of incoming frames, the bridge then builds an address table associating addresses to segments. Once an address is learned, the bridge forwards network traffic destined for that address only to the associated segment, improving overall performance. Broadcast traffic is still forwarded to all network segments. Bridges also overcome the limits on total segments between two hosts and allow the mixing of speeds, both of which are critical to the incremental deployment of faster Ethernet variants.
In 1989, Motorola Codex introduced their 6310 EtherSpan, and Kalpana introduced their EtherSwitch; these were examples of the first commercial Ethernet switches. Early switches such as this used cut-through switching where only the header of the incoming packet is examined before it is either dropped or forwarded to another segment. This reduces the forwarding latency. One drawback of this method is that it does not readily allow a mixture of different link speeds. Another is that packets that have been corrupted are still propagated through the network. The eventual remedy for this was a return to the original store and forward approach of bridging, where the packet is read into a buffer on the switch in its entirety, its frame check sequence verified and only then the packet is forwarded. In modern network equipment, this process is typically done using application-specific integrated circuits allowing packets to be forwarded at wire speed.
When a twisted pair or fiber link segment is used and neither end is connected to a repeater, full-duplex Ethernet becomes possible over that segment. In full-duplex mode, both devices can transmit and receive to and from each other at the same time, and there is no collision domain. This doubles the aggregate bandwidth of the link and is sometimes advertised as double the link speed (for example, 200 Mbit/s for Fast Ethernet). The elimination of the collision domain for these connections also means that all the link's bandwidth can be used by the two devices on that segment and that segment length is not limited by the constraints of collision detection.
Since packets are typically delivered only to the port they are intended for, traffic on a switched Ethernet is less public than on shared-medium Ethernet. Despite this, switched Ethernet should still be regarded as an insecure network technology, because it is easy to subvert switched Ethernet systems by means such as ARP spoofing and MAC flooding.
The bandwidth advantages, the improved isolation of devices from each other, the ability to easily mix different speeds of devices and the elimination of the chaining limits inherent in non-switched Ethernet have made switched Ethernet the dominant network technology.
Advanced networking features in switches use Shortest Path Bridging (SPB) or the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) to maintain a loop-free, meshed network, allowing physical loops for redundancy (STP) or load-balancing (SPB). Shortest Path Bridging includes the use of the link-state routing protocol IS-IS to allow larger networks with shortest path routes between devices.
Advanced networking features also ensure port security, provide protection features such as MAC lockdown and broadcast radiation filtering, use to keep different classes of users separate while using the same physical infrastructure, employ multilayer switching to route between different classes, and use link aggregation to add bandwidth to overloaded links and to provide some redundancy.
In 2016, Ethernet replaced InfiniBand as the most popular system interconnect of TOP500 supercomputers.
The most common forms used are 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, and 1000BASE-T. All three use twisted-pair cables and 8P8C modular connectors. They run at , , and , respectively.IEEE 802.3 14. Twisted-pair medium attachment unit (MAU) and baseband medium, type 10BASE-T including type 10BASE-TeIEEE 802.3 25. Physical Medium Dependent (PMD) sublayer and baseband medium, type 100BASE-TXIEEE 802.3 40. Physical Coding Sublayer (PCS), Physical Medium Attachment (PMA) sublayer and baseband medium, type 1000BASE-T
Optical fiber variants of Ethernet (that commonly use SFP modules) are also very popular in larger networks, offering high performance, better electrical isolation and longer distance (tens of kilometers with some versions). In general, network protocol stack software will work similarly on all varieties.IEEE 802.3 4.3 Interfaces to/from adjacent layers
A physical topology that contains switching or bridge loops is attractive for redundancy reasons, yet a switched network must not have loops. The solution is to allow physical loops, but create a loop-free logical topology using the SPB protocol or the older STP on the network switches.