Networking: what does the future hold?

20 March 2019

Having recently gone through the experience (financial trauma…) of buying my first house, and fortunately getting the opportunity to choose every option on it, it came to mind the whole process wasn’t entirely different to choosing a new networking switch for an embedded system.

Of course, as product manager for Abaco’s networking products, the first thing I wanted (after a dishwasher, anyway) was a wired network. Of course, not all wired networks are made equal - and when it comes to choosing something to be permanently installed, you don’t want to get it wrong now or for the future. Being stuck with either too few connection points or cabling not suited to the higher speeds is never a good position to be in - just like choosing a low port density switch or not optimising a backplane for higher frequencies. Looking to the future while also planning for now is crucial when given a one-time choice on infrastructure.

Two questions

Back in May I had two questions to answer: how many rooms needed connection points - and was it be with Cat5e or Cat6a cables? Answer: every room - and as good as it can be for the cabling; so, Cat6a.

My needs were met: a higher number of connection points everywhere, and all of them capable of operating at a speed greater than the current need keeps my options open in the future.

Roll forward six months, with the housebuilders nearing completion, and the only thing left on the list to buy for the house was the network switch. Having the benefit of a very capable backbone that supported 10 Gigabit operation and up to eight ports gave me the opportunity to pick from a very capable switch suited to a small business down to simple unmanaged fast Ethernet switch.

World of choice

With a world of choice of networking switches, there had to be a way to filter down the options and come up with a good solution to fit my immediate requirement, possible future needs and budget.

Armed with a list of devices that needed connecting and their capabilities, it was apparent that there was no immediate need for 10 Gigabit functionality or more than six ports.

After many hours reviewing the best options, it was down to two promising switches: option 1, an 8-port switch with two 10G ports; or option 2, a basic 8-port managed Gigabit switch. Having realized how long it took to find the best options, and not wishing to go through it again any time soon, the choice was again simple based on planning for the future: two ports of 10G would cover my future needs, but also work for now at a lower speed. Decision made, switch bought and no need to worry about it again for a good while - even when upgrading devices on the network.

Planning for the future

So why did I say at the outset that the process of networking my new home was similar to the process of choosing a switch for an embedded system?  You’ve probably guessed: it’s all about planning for the future, ensuring that what you deploy today will also stand you in good stead for the future – whatever it may bring. That’s why, at Abaco, we look to bring our customers next generation technology for the future – but ensuring that it works for today’s needs too.

For example: our SWE540A was designed to not only provide 40 Gigabit functionality – ready for the future - but to also be compatible with the GBX460 it replaces. That’s always been a key element of our design philosophy: to create products that give our customers a straightforward, cost-effective path into the future – and that applies across all our product lines.

So, when you’re looking to upgrade the Ethernet switch in your system, it’s important not to just think in terms of a like-for-like replacement. We can help by delivering the compatibility you need now - but also give you the ability to migrate to 40 Gigabit without the need for a new network switch when the time comes.

It sounds so easy, it makes you wonder why all companies don’t do the same.

Glyn Evans

Having spent a year with Abaco as an intern at Towcester in the UK, Glyn joined the company in 2015 as an electronics design engineer. In 2017, he was appointed product manager, and now has responsibility for Abaco’s range of networking solutions. He has a first class honors BEng degree from De Montfort University, Leicester.