Book Review: ATM Networks

Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) has been described as a technology seeking an application. However, new applications, such as...

Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) has been described as a technology seeking an application. However, new applications, such as video on demand, are carving out a desirable niche for this proven technology

ATM Networks

By Othmas Kyas

Published by International Thomson Computer Press

First Edition - 1996

ATM has been around for many years and it is now at the cusp of its existence. From its launch in the early 1990s, ATM has been trumpeted as the future of networking, offering incredible performance, flexibility and management - but at a premium price. However, the introduction of media converters, together with applications demanding higher bandwidth, should provide ATMs best and perhaps last chance of adoption as a pervasive networking technology. Media converters allow a company to mix different cabling types to safeguard a company's existing and future investment.

Another barrier that ATM must still overcome is education. Mention Ethernet and most network managers are familiar with this technology. On the other hand, if you mention ATM, many network managers will be left scratching their heads. If ATM is to become a widespread technology then introductory texts, such as ATM Networks by Othmar Kyas, are important for its success.

Considering the complexity of ATM Networks, Kyas has written a clear, concise and easy-to-read book. ATM technology has arisen to meet the needs of new and more demanding applications, generating increased traffic on a network. ATM provides the possibility of a universal networking technology from the backplane, right up to the desktop.

The book pays attention not only to data communications but also speech, picture and video, over both local and wide area networks. Constant reference is made to the relevant IEEE standards, giving the enthusiast an immediate starting point for further reading.

In his treatment of ATM, Kyas ignores reference to the pipes - a frequently used analogy - that oversimplifies ATM. Kyas instead chooses to summarise the different switching techniques of wide area networks and explains why cell switching is fundamental to ATM. Finally, he expounds the virtues of connection-oriented and connectionless networks and explains why connectionless networks are superseding connection technology.

Kyas's initial treatment of B-ISDN (Broadband Integrated Services Digital Network) detracts slightly from the book as a whole, as a great deal of time is devoted to this subject, with its importance only explained at a later stage. The author frequently alternates between discussing B-ISDN and ATM. Possibly, he believes B-ISDN will be the main application area of ATM. If this is the case, then much more time should have been devoted initially to defining and clarifying how the two technologies co-exist. Nevertheless, Kyas explains clearly why ATM will span the whole spectrum of picture, speech, video and data communications.

At almost 400 pages, the book still seems short, as Kyas treats his subject matter in a rather laid-back, but informative manner. As an introductory text on ATM, this book is to be recommended, but it presupposes a sound understanding of communication networks theory. The final chapters provide a wealth of reference information, including a glossary, reference textbooks, and listings of relevant companies and online information services.

Paul Phillips

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