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Firewire vs. Ethernet Networking - Test system, Benchmarks and Conclusion

Now that more and more PC's and notebooks are Firewire enabled, it's a good time to take a look at the additional networking functionality it brings to the PC. Can it become a usable alternative to 10/100 Ethernet networking? Today Aaron "FragMan" Clegg takes a peek into the advantages and disadvantages of Firewire networks.

| Editorials in Networking | Posted: Jul 12, 2002 4:00 am

Test System

 

Quite often a typical network will have varying hardware for both the PC itself and the network equipment. Our test involves two different computers linked by different Firewire and network controllers:

 

Test System 1

 

AMD Athlon XP1800+

 

512Mb PC133

 

Netgear FA310TX NIC

 

Soundblaster Audigy DE (Firewire onboard)

 

Windows XP Professional

 

Test System 2

 

AMD Duron 800

 

384Mb PC133

 

Intel Pro/100 S NIC

 

Swann PCI Firewire Card

 

Windows XP Professional

 

Benchmarks

 

First up we will use Sisoft Sandra 2002's network benchmark tool to give us an idea of the theoretical bandwidth differences between Firewire and 100BaseT networks:

 

 

Not surprisingly, the scores come out right on the sample speeds for each.

 

Synthetic benchmarks are all good, but we need some way of testing the "real world" performance of the two different interfaces. Here we will use the transfer of files via FTP to compare the two:

 

 

Here I have also compared the performance under Windows Me. This highlights the excellent networking capability of Windows XP, or the poor networking of Windows Me, depending on how you look at it.

 

Conclusion

 

We can see from the results that Firewire provides significant gains in speed over standard 100BaseT Ethernet networking. This comes at a price though, with cables being limited in length. Although Gigabit networking should be faster, the pricing of the switches is still beyond the reach of most people. There are currently plans in the pipeline for the IEEE 1394b standard, which raises the speeds to 800Mbps and above gigabit. I'm sure that will provide unsurpassed network bandwidth in the not too distant future.

 

Will Firewire networking become commonplace? Probably not for networks with large amounts of PC's, but the potential is definitely there for small networks to take advantage of its simple connectivity and fast speed.

 

Pros

 

- Faster than switched 100BaseT

 

- Easy connectivity using standard connectors

 

- Works well on Windows 2000/XP

 

Cons

 

- Windows 9x does not take advantage of the higher speed

 

- Relatively short cable length

 

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