Ok, I am sure all of my engineering colleagues remember this classic line from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. I believe liking this movie is one of the sure signs that you are an engineer! Holy grails clearly exist within the engineering community, as well as the Ethernet community–and there is no holy grail looming that is larger than Ethernet’s RJ-45 connector. In my prior life when I worked for a connector company, I had fun tweaking the company to propose a higher density alternative to this infamous connector. The results ranged from silence on the other end of the phone (not sure if they put me on MUTE so I wouldn’t hear their laughing or they just dropped over dead) to men in straightjackets coming to take me away.
Clearly there is something mystical about the RJ-45.
But enough already….. Yes, I get that it is not just a simple thing to replace a connector like that, but there really are a lot of reasons to consider it. Introducing a new connector based on the latest technological developments is understandable, but just being able to address other markets, in my opinion, is the bigger driver. A smaller connector could lead to increased port density and the subsequent cost reductions from integration – that’s obvious! Kind of limited in vision though.
Everyone describes Ethernet as the ubiquitous connection, but come on, really? There are lots of connections out there where Ethernet is not the dominant connection, especially in the consumer space. My laptop has three USB ports. How about we talk about that cable that many of us own to connect to our IPods / IPhones / ITouches / IPads? USB on one end to some proprietary connection on the other. And those are the easy ones just looking at my computer in front of me at the moment.
Recently, I bought a new TV for upstairs. Had to go out and buy those expensive HDMI cables, but I do love the convenience of that single cable. So it kills me when I then see people talking about running Ethernet over HDMI. Why would I want to do that – just run Ethernet! But it looks like there is hope – I just read a blog that is talking about Ethernet to replace HDMI as a standard TV cable. Well, isn’t it about time?
Ethernet is known for being cheap, simple, and it works. The Ethernet community needs to expand its perspective and look at these other application spaces. Unfortunately, I think the current size of the RJ-45 connector scares a lot of people away. The reality is that the Ethernet community develops a lot of technology that could be used, but as with any Ethernet standard, industry consensus needs to drive it.