Not long ago, ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) was being touted as the solution to the bandwidth requirements for large networks, but a recent survey of several hundred companies and organizations by Infonetics Research, a market research firm, determined that 99 percent will be purchasing Gigabit Ethernet, rather than ATM in the coming year. While Gigabit Ethernet is new, it is a logical extension of the widely used 10/100 Mbps Ethernet. It is not just familiarity that makes Ethernet the runaway choice of network managers, it is also cost. A 622 Mbps ATM switch costs approximately $4,240 per port, while a Gigabit Ethernet switch which runs at 1,000 Mbps costs approximately $1,400 per port. Infonetics projects that the price gap will widen next year with ATM's per-port price being $3,000 and Gigabit Ethernet's being $850.
Only a handful of library networks require bandwidth greater than 100 Mbps today, but hundreds of libraries may exceed that bandwidth requirement within the next 3-5 years. Preliminary planning and costing for the network upgrades should begin in the near future. An important reason for doing so is that Gigabit switches will soon be able to auto-sense among 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, and 1000 Mbps, thus making it possible to invest in a switch which will not require replacement as bandwidth requirements increase.