The collision detection and
mitigation system that enabled Ethernet to dominate local area
networking is now a big speed bump that can be avoided.
By: John Shepler
If you have a local area network, chances are that
you're using 10 Mbps Ethernet, 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet or perhaps
even 1,000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet. So, are you getting all the
bandwidth that your network is capable of? Or are you losing
as much as half of your potential throughput to packet collisions?
The original Ethernet design included a
clever mechanism called CSMA/CD to let all of the network connected
equipment share a common party line for transmitting and receiving.
CSMA/CD stands for Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Collision Detect.
That's right Collision. Each device is expected to listen for
network activity and only transmit when the line is quiet. But,
like pulling out onto the freeway, sometimes unfortunate collisions
occur. The packets get jumbled and all parties back off to wait
for another opportunity. This need to take turns talking and
listening can reduce the efficiency of the network by as much
A design update in 1997 added the capability
of full duplex operation with separate transmit and receive lines.
The original Ethernet used hardware called hubs to make the party
line connection between computers, servers, printers, etc. The
full duplex approach uses switches instead of hubs. The switches
make sure that data from the sending party goes to the receiving
party unbeknownst to other equipment on the network. With full
duplex you are utilizing the complete transmit and receive bandwidths
of your network simultaneously. No, it doesn't speed up the packet
transmission rate. But by eliminating all that network congestion,
it might well seem that way.
If you are wondering why your network might
be running slower than expected, make sure all those ancient
hubs are replaced by switches and that all of your NICs or Network
Interface Cards are capable of the speed you desire. Ethernet
was designed tomake digital communications easy and will try
to keep working even with a hodgepodge of connections.
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