Metcalfe's column: Yipes! Ethernet is killing ATM

It's one thing to disagree with a major guru. It's another to have the guru say you underestimate your own invention. And it's something else again to turn out to be the one who is wrong. The guru in this case is George Gilder.

Six years ago, while generously giving the name "Metcalfe's Law" to one of my old 35mm slides, Gilder disagreed when I wrote that ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) was killing Ethernet.

Now, not for the first time, Gilder is turning out to be right.

Although ATM may have been killing my baby six years ago, the latest evidence is that Ethernet now is killing ATM. Consider, for example, the optical networking start-up called Yipes.

The founders had considered calling their start-up Yikes, as in, "Yikes, that's fast!" But then they noticed that by changing the K to a P, their name could contain IP, reminding us that they offer Internet Protocol services.

On the phone with co-founder Ron Young last week, I asked if the ES in Yipes stood for Ethernet Service.

He said he'd not thought of that before, nor that the Y in Yipes might mean Young's Internet Protocol Ethernet Service.

Yipes is now in nine major cities, offering high-speed and low-delay Internet, MAN (metropolitan-area network), and WAN (wide-area network) access services.

Yipes uses IP over Ethernet over DWDM (dense wavelength division multiplexing).

The company offers twice the bandwidth at 80 percent of the price of old telephony-oriented services based on ATM over SONet (Synchronous Optical Network).

In its first year, Yipes Communications Inc. ( has already raised $97 million in its first two rounds of venture capital financing and is in the process of rapidly adding cities and services.

The company's first two services were regional Ethernet-to-Ethernet and Internet access. Its new service is for private Ethernet-to-Ethernet WANs.

Yipes decries the expensive lumpiness and provisioning delays of T1 (1.5Mbps), DS3 (45Mbps), OC-3 (155Mbps), or OC-12 (622Mbps) services.

These require expensive, speed-specific CSU/DSUs (channel service units/data service units) connecting to ATM switches interconnected regionally and nationally using SONet.

Instead, Yipes runs fiber directly into one of its IP routers in your building -- up to 70 kilometers without repeaters. You get Ethernet-to-Ethernet or Ethernet-to-Internet service from 1Mbps and up to GigE (1Gbps Ethernet).

Yipes offers 1Mbps and 10Mbps bandwidth increments on demand.

If you need an extra few Mbps every Thursday for your company's video Webcast, call Yipes and schedule it.

If you see you need a few more Mbps later that same day, call and get it dialed in to your local Yipes megapop.

And Young says they are working on direct Web access to Yipes service parameters.

Young explains Yipes' disruptive advantages by contrasting the costs of IP/GigE/ DWDM vs. ATM/SONet.

He projects port costs per 100Mbps dropping from $3,500 in 1997 to under $1,000 in 2000, and headed near $500 by 2004.

Ethernet ports, he says, are already 25 percent the price of ATM ports and falling.

Yipes is not an equipment vendor. Young touts the hip vendors upon whom his service is currently based -- such as Extreme for customer-premises routers ("megapops") and Juniper network-premises routers ("gigapops").

He touts the hip service suppliers with whom he is in partnership -- such as Qwest and Level3.

And he promises to switch vendors to be sure Yipes customers get rapidly improving services.

Who might Yipes' customers be?

They are businesses with 20-2,000 users on an Ethernet; businesses with multiple Ethernets; ASPs (application service providers); CLECs (competitive local exchange carriers); and regional ISPs. In short, not residences.

Let's hope Yipes delivers on its claims. But if it doesn't, I'm sure somebody else will.

So I have been wrong again, and George Gilder right. Ethernet is killing ATM.

Bob Metcalfe's new book, Internet Collapses and Other InfoWorld Punditry, is half the length of the new Harry Potter book and is available at

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