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FDDI: A High Speed Network, by Amit Shah and G. Ramakrishnan. Prentice Hall,Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632, 1994. ISBN 0-13-308388-8.

In the midst of al the hype, frenzy, and fascination over ATM, one might be tempted  to ask whether FDDI is still relevant. The simple truth is that FDDI not only remains relevant, but it is providing high speed networking solutions in scenarios where current generation ATM switching technology has not yet lived up to expectations. Certain vBNS NAPs, commercial interconnects, and enterprise internet equivalents FDDI to interconnect high-end routers in those circumstances where the number of T3 circuits terminated at a single site exceeds any single router's capacity. FDDI is also used as a campus backbone solution and as an upgrade LAN technology for NOS servers in enterprise nets. And FDDI is certain to play a role in the evolution to switched internetworking. So I'd say FDDI is relevant and will remain so for some time.

The criteria for whether a book on FDDI remains relevant are somewhat different than those on ATM. Books covering ATM may still be relevant if they focus on standards and theory, but FDDI standards are nearly 10 years old, and papers describing the Time Token Rotation protocol on which FDDI is based appeared in 1982, so one would hope that any book competing for shelf space today would address the practical aspects of FDDI.

Thankfully, Amit Shah and G. Ramakrishnan do a rather good job providing relevant material in this book. In fact, you have to look hard to find in-line references to standards. Four chapters describe FDDI nodes and topologies, the MAC, physical, and physical media dependent layers in ample if not painstaking detail, and diagrams modeling operational flows complement the text nicely. The chapter on Station Management (SMT) does an admirable job of explaining link and node management in as close to "plain-speak" as one could expect. The practical aspects of FDDI - issues to consider when selecting media, installing cabling, and when choosing a topology - are covered in the closing chapters. The final chapter provides guidelines for troubleshooting FDDI networks. These are probably the most interesting and valuable chapters, especially for those who are installing FDDI.

The typical ConneXions reader may find the chapter describing internetworking with FDDI rather mundane, and may not appreciate the somewhat lackadaisical treatment of SNMP and CMIP in the chapter on remote network management (the authors show a bias towards SMT which is not universally shared, and relegate SNMP, et. al. to a subsection entitled "FDDI Management with Other Protocols"). The propensity of the authors to intermingle discussion of Internet and OSI technology without clearly distinguishing between the two was something of a frustration, and the introductory chapters are disconnected, but I would not denounce this book on the basis of "occasional inaccuracies" and a slow start.

In the Preface, the authors promise "a book which is neither too technical nor too simplistic".". On balance, Shah and Ramakrishnan deliver. If you have no knowledge or experience with FDDI, you should consider adding this book to your library.

-- reviewed by David M. Piscitello, Core Competence, Inc. dave@corecom.com

Reprinted with permission from ConneXions, Volume 9, No. 8, August 1995

ConneXions-- The Interoperability Report is published monthly by: Interop Company, a division of SOFTBANK Expos.

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