Smart shopper's guide to networking infrastructure: Decision point

Chances are good that at least a couple of the networking technologies covered in this guide are on your 2004 shopping list. Gigabit Ethernet, wireless local-area networks, metropolitan-area Ethernet and Internet SCSI storage networks are among the hottest products this year, yet for the most part, each is still in the early stages of adoption in government. That is expected to change soon.

For those who have not yet evaluated or have just begun studying these technologies, a central purpose of this guide is to provide a quick explanation of how each works and is sold, as well as a rundown of its applications and benefits. To those who are ready to buy now, we also provide specific advice about some important deployment decisions that must be made early, choices that will determine which products are most suitable.

It is interesting to note that although each of the technologies featured here addresses a separate problem or new opportunity, they all share a common heritage in the Ethernet and IP-based networks that are ubiquitous in government.

On one level, this speaks to the resounding success that open standards have had in the networking market, enabling competition and innovation among vendors that benefit customers everywhere.

On another level, it means that the introduction of the products into current system setups usually goes fairly smoothly. Also, an agency's ongoing cost of ownership of these technologies is lower than that of brand-new technologies because employees can use skills and administration and maintenance tools they already have on hand.

So read on to find out how to get these technologies working for you.

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