Given that the SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies grapples with the industry’s future, Robert Metcalfe, attributed with "inventing" Ethernet, will keynote the upcoming event, scheduled for Jan. 23-25 in Houston.

"Clearly, the cable industry is moving to Gigabit Ethernet as the platform of choice, and there is a whole lot going on now from the business services side," said Marvin Nelson, SCTE vice president, professional development. "(MSOs) are moving to doing carrier Ethernet. Why not have person who started that whole thing rolling come and speak?"

"Bob’s invention of Ethernet has become the ‘plumbing’ of much of what we do today. He is really the father of high-speed communications …. He also early on realized that the power of a network was proportional to the square of the number of users, which we refer to today as Metcalfe’s law. In ET, we are trying to look out to the future, at least three to five years, and Bob has shown that ability. He is one of the real visionaries in our world," said Ray Sokola, ET 2006 program chairman.

Metcalfe’s illustrious résumé includes founding 3Com and acting as CEO of InfoWorld Publishing. But it was while working for the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center that the term Ethernet was coined, after Metcalfe was asked to connect the company’s computers. He now owns four patents based on the local area networking standard he helped create at that time.

Today, Metcalfe serves as a general partner of Polaris Venture Partners and as a director for many institutions, including the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), which cable operators increasingly are joining. Cox Business Services and Time Warner Cable are members, as is Optimum Lightpath, the CLEC division of Cablevision and the first MSO subsidiary to be MEF certified. "ET"-thernet According to Lightpath Executive Vice President and General Manager David Pistacchio, MEF has given "credibility" to his company, which now uses only Metro Ethernet as a means of transport for business customers. "(MEF) is about finding Ethernet-based products and services in a way that best reflects what the business community wants to buy," Pistacchio said. For more on metro Ethernet and the MEF, click here. As for what attendees can expect at ET, the selection of Metcalfe as the keynote speaker is indicative of what the event’s tone will be. "What better platform to build the rest of the conference around than something that has become so basic to much of what we do as Ethernet, but which has evolved so much over the past 30+ years to continue to enable more and more capability?" Sokola said.

"I think Bob will use his instant credibility and future vision to challenge the audience and get us to think about how the world is evolving and the role that we play in that evolution. The Ethernet has not just stood the test of time, but has evolved and prospered, which is what I think Bob will use an as example of how to move forward successfully," he added.

In other ET news, the SCTE is working on an online forum that would allow registered attendees to access papers, dialogue with their authors, and interact with one another for three weeks prior to the conference, Nelson said. As for Metro Ethernet, the SCTE is in discussions with MEF regarding a potential full-day seminar explaining the components of MEF and certification requirements. – Monta Hernon

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