Tera-what? The title of this article alone may have you reeling through your memory because you just know you remember that term from somewhere. But where?

This is not an uncommon response, since the Terabit phenomenon seems to have slipped to the back burner for a while. A Terabit, in case you forgot, is a trillion bits of information. There was a time when this next Gigabit Ethernet derivative was poised to come to the forefront as a hot, new technology. Add to that the ongoing debate between Terabit Ethernet and Terabit-capable switches or routers. There is definitely a distinct difference, since a true Terabit Ethernet would require an associated set of standards, which Gigabit Ethernet has, and refer to an overall design. Routers with Terabit ability are essentially just that, able to handle large amounts of information,so large, in fact, that Terabit is the easiest way to describe them.

For perhaps well over a decade, the Terabit craze was everywhere; but that was a long time before technology became the big, bad "T" word and the associated IT and technology sectors sloughed off. It seems that Terabit is back, albeit not as forceful as before, but back nonetheless. At least, those directly involved with it are attempting to create a second wave of excitement, mainly with the overall reintroduction of Terabit itself and some new, associated technology.

It seems as if everybody was a little hesitant at the notion and speculation of Internet traffic increasing to the point where Gigabit routers would eventually become unable to handle such heavy traffic. The problem does exist and is apparently increasing in severity with the onslaught of Web users, downloadable files, video streams, video gaming and the like. This is where Terabit-enabled routers, as the backbone to a network, finally get to do their job, as had been promised for years.

Perhaps one of the most significant advances within the Terabit realm happened within the confines of Lucent/Bell Labs. Back in 1998, they were successful in the long-distance transmission of a single Terabit of information within just a second, over a 250-mile single strand of fiber optic cable with a fiber amplifier. Talk about information overload. The potential is almost impossible to comprehend, especially since we have all been collectively conditioned to be utterly impressed with the power of Gigabit.

From there, let's fast-forward to the summer of 2000,when it appears as if things began to heat up once again. The good folks at Lucent (notice the omission of the Bell Labs name, because this was after the umpteenth split of the original company) were not as impressed with themselves as the rest of the world seemed to be. So they took things one step farther. They transmitted not one, but three (3.28, to be exact) Terabits of information per second over, yet again, a single strand of long-distance fiber optic cable. You cannot slow down progress.

Many people think technology has taken a severe beating. However, they are most likely referring only to technology company profits, margins and the good old technology sector of the stock market. If you step back from the industry's capitalistic nature (because as we all know, when the market was booming, everybody made money in IT and thus raved about the IT sector) and look at what truly matters, things continue to move along nicely.

This is all great news for the industry, mainly because advancement and progress are the key factors driving technology. But what does all this research and development mean to the average American, and more important, contractors?

In a nutshell, it means that such new technologies are, as always, intriguing to your clients and customers. Which, in turn, means you need to be aware of both the background and, on occasion, the logistics of the technology.

As far as Terabit goes, you may want to familiarize yourself with the new range of Terabit routers that are currently on the market. The specialized Terabit router probably has the best shot at making a public appearance, mainly since we have become accustomed to and comfortable with high-performance routers and switches. If an actual Terabit Ethernet standard is eventually developed, it could essentially take years to create, mainly since the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers does not allow standards and changes to the overall industry to be made at random or within short periods of time. When we talk about changing an entire design standard, we need to be certain that it is in the best overall interest of all involved parties, and that definitely includes contractors.

Technology keeps producing bigger, better and more powerful options. All this keeps customers happy, since many people always want the hot new technology on the block. So, keep your eyes and ears peeled for more information regarding Terabit, as it is sure to find its way back into the mainstream media. But don't get too comfortable,Petabit looms on the horizon.

STONG is the enterprise developer at G. R. Sponaugle & Sons, Inc. in Pennsylvania. She can be reached at 717.564.1515 or via e-mail at jennifer.stong@grsponaugle.com.