In the trend to increase network speed, Ethernet has been outpacing Token Ring. Token Ring users have been limited to speeds of 16 Mbps (million bits per second), while Ethernet users have experienced speeds of up to 100 Mbps. This level of Ethernet is commonly called "Fast Ethernet." Work is well under way on 1.0 Gbps (billion bits per second) Ethernet.
3Com, a major vendor of network hardware and software, has unveiled a technology which embeds Token Ring frames in Ethernet traffic flows, allowing Token Ring users access to the much faster Ethernet backbone.
A typical network using 3Com's new approach would consist of Token Ring switches equipped with new one-port Fast Ethernet modules that allow the Token Ring ports to talk to a Fast Ethernet switch. The new module does not translate between Token Ring and Fast Ethernet frames; instead, it puts Fast Ethernet headers and trailers on Token Ring frames, thus disguising them as Ethernet packets.
This development may have little meaning for most public libraries, but it is significant for academic and special libraries, many of which are a part of a larger organization of which a considerable number are Token ring users. These libraries are interested in the faster speeds of Fast Ethernet in anticipation of the that time when they move to full-text, imaging, and multimedia applications.