ATM For Dummies


If you thought that ATM was nothing more than the name of the machine from which you withdraw money, prepare to meet an ATM of a more esoteric sort. The esoteric ATM is Asynchronous Transfer Mode, an important innovation in high-speed networking technology. In ATM For Dummies, networking experts Cathy Gadecki and Christine Heckart explain what ATM is, how it works, what its implications are, and (most important) how you can take advantage of it. Find out how to exploit ATM's capabilities for supporting ...
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If you thought that ATM was nothing more than the name of the machine from which you withdraw money, prepare to meet an ATM of a more esoteric sort. The esoteric ATM is Asynchronous Transfer Mode, an important innovation in high-speed networking technology. In ATM For Dummies, networking experts Cathy Gadecki and Christine Heckart explain what ATM is, how it works, what its implications are, and (most important) how you can take advantage of it. Find out how to exploit ATM's capabilities for supporting mission-critical applications, for faster Internet access, and for more efficient intranets. The authors enlisted the help of many industry professionals who share their real-world ATM experiences with you. With plenty of practical information on everything from evaluating equipment and services to mixing existing systems effectively with new ATM hardware and software, ATM For Dummies offers the quickest and easiest access to this important, cutting-edge technology.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764500657
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/5/1997
  • Series: For Dummies Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 7.35 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Cathy Gadecki, a senior broadband consultant with TeleChoice, and Christine Heckart, the vice president of Broadband Data Consulting for TeleChoice, helped launch the industry's first ATM-based carrier services.
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Table of Contents



PART I: Finding Out Why, What, Where, Who, and When.

Chapter 1: Why All the Fuss about ATM? An Executive's Summary.

Chapter 2: Just Give Me the Scoop (How to Sound Like an ATM Expert).

Chapter 3: What Makes Up ATM?

Chapter 4: Where Can I Use ATM Locally?

Chapter 5: Where Can I Use ATM in the Wide Area?

Chapter 6: Who Needs ATM? Do I?

Chapter 7: When Should I Use ATM?

PART II: Finding Out How ATM Works.

Chapter 8: Conquering the Basic Bits and Bytes.

Chapter 9: Getting Inside the ATM Layer.

Chapter 10: Looking at ATM's Support Functions.

Chapter 11: Playing Nicely with the Other Kids: ATM's Interoperability Function.

PART III: Investing In ATM: Decisions, Decisions!.

Chapter 12: Evaluating ATM for Wide Area Networks.

Chapter 13: Evaluating ATM for Local Area Networks.

Chapter 14: Considering the ATM Business Case.

Chapter 15: Implementing ATM.

Chapter l6: It Works! ATM Case Studies.

PART IV: The Part of Tens.

Chapter 17: Ten Tips for a Successful ATM Project.

Chapter 18: Top Reasons to Consider ATM.

Chapter 19: Some Reasons Not to Use ATM.

Chapter 20: Ten ATM Web Sites and Information Sources.

Chapter 21: More Than Ten Important ATM Standards.

Chapter 22: Ten Alternatives to ATM.

Chapter 23: Ten Drivers, Influencers, and Supporters of ATM.

Chapter 24: Ten Tips from the Pros: Advice from Those Using the Technology.

PART V: Appendixes.

Appendix A: All About the ATM Forum.

Appendix B: Glossary.


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Welcome to ATM For Dummies. Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) is one of the newest and most technically complex set of standards, products, services, and protocols in the communications industry. Nearly everyone, including the authors and contributors of this book, can be baffled by ATM In at least one respect or another - because ATM is not just one thing, but instead, is many things.
Many? Yes, ATM is a communications protocol suite for the desktop, the local area network (LAN), the campus backbone network, and the wide area network (WAN). (By the way, weexplain the preceding networking terms and concepts - along with many others - throughout thisbook.) Although the ATM protocol is basically the same in all these environments, the issues,obstacles, and alternatives regarding ATM can differ greatly. Therefore, someone who is anexpert in ATM for wide area networking may not feel nearly as confident when discussing ATMin the local area or campus backbone environments.

Whatever your level of expertise (or NOT) with ATM, you should only bother reading thisbook if:

  • You are in a marketing, operations, or engineering department, or are a financial analyst,manager, director, president, stock investment enthusiast, or wannabe, in the computer,communications, cable, or utility industries and need to get in touch with one of the many cosmicforces converging to shape the astrological charts for networking in the '90s and beyond.
  • You are the CIO of an organization and your networking people keep talking about ATM andasking for a lot of money to go out and implement this technology, and you want to betterunderstand what you're paying for.
  • You are an MIS director,network manager, or other laborer in a data communications orMIS department and are tired of getting all of your information about ATM from sales people,trade publications, and advertisements. We give you the real inside scoop - not some over-hypedmarketing pabulum.
  • You are interested in networking and have heard about the supposedly magical networkingproperties of a modern-day talisman called ATM, but don't have a local witch doctor to consultabout getting some for yourself.
  • You are new to the telecommunications industry and need an overview of this acronym youconstantly hear bantered about.
  • You, your boss, and/or your company are looking for ways to gain a competitive marketadvantage, and buying out your largest competitors is out of the question for this fiscal year.
  • You are a byte-junky, computer nerd, Internet geek, enginerd, or other techno-minority justinterested in finding alternatives to social activities and interaction with other humanoids. (Don'tfeel bad, some of our best friends are just like you.)
  • You are a student looking for an exciting, stressful, fun-filled, stressful, fast- moving, (did wemention stressful?) career in the ever-changing, always interesting communications industry.
  • You are involved in the telecommunications industry on the voice side of the house and wantto understand what all the ATM hype is about.
  • One of your self-proclaimed cutting-edge friends told you that ATM stands for AnotherTragic Mistake - and you've learned to always believe the opposite of what he or she says. (Wehave a few friends like this, too.)
  • You are married to any one of the above, or you are married to the authors of this book (Hi,Steve and Doug!), and you want to know what we do for a living! (Not! .+)
If you own or operate a 9.6 Kbps network between fewer than 20 sites, or are using modems tosend information between network locations, you can read this book, but you may want to lookinto buying frame relay (not ATM) to improve your network's price/performance. (See, we reallyare looking out for your Interests.)
If you own and operate an Ethernet or token ring LAN and it works fine, never getscongested, and supports the applications you need supported for the foreseeable future, you, too,can read this book. But you probably don't need ATM and you may be better off sticking withwhat you have today, even if you're looking into some packet-based desktop video applicationsjust for fun.
If you are in the banking industry and picked up this book to find out more about AutomaticTeller Machines, put this book down. YOU ARE IN THE WRONG SECTION OF THEBOOKSTORE.

About This Book
Like all ...For Dummies books, this book takes a refreshing approach to a difficult technicalsubject. We don't intend to fill page after page with minutia and detail, and we don't expect you toread the book from cover to cover. But we do plan on telling you what you need to know tounderstand ATM and to make an intelligent decision about how, when, why, and even whetherATM is for you and your network.
Look in the Table of Contents and find a topic that interests you. Turn to the index in theback of the book and find your area of interest there. Or just open the book to any page and startreading.
The important point is that you don't need to read the chapters in order. But to help you inyour ATM For Dummies adventure, you find sections in the book with topics like these:

  • What ATM stands for and what that means
  • Who determines the all important standards that make ATM work
  • Some technical details of the ATM standard, but in user-friendly language
  • Where ATM is or can be used in various areas of the network - and to what benefit
  • How competing technologies stack up against ATM
  • Who's using ATM today - and how it's working for them
  • Where to go (beyond this book) to learn more about ATM
Conventions Used in This Book
Remember that ATM For Dummies is a reference book! That means that you can refer backto the book any time you want. Don't try to memorize the information, but feel free to mark yourfavorite spots in the book (you know, dog-ear the page, get out your trusty highlighter, and soon) so that you can easily find them again.
This book is a bit unique in the ...For Dummies book arena. That is, the book isn't exactlyswimming with conventions that we use to show you what keys to press on your keyboard, whatto type into a text box on-screen, and so on. However, we'd like to point out one convention towatch for: We like to give you references to online resources on the World Wide Web (WWW)that may give you more information about ATM. When we include the online resource addresses,or URLs (Uniform Resource Locators), they appear in monospaced font like this:
Or if the URL is on a separate line, it may look like this: http //

What You're Not to Read
We want to demystify ATM for you, and strip away the hype that surrounds this mosteagerly anticipated and talked-about communications technology. While we aren't going todiscuss the technological issues that large groups of PhDs spend years arguing about, we mustdiscuss some aspects of ATM In technical terms - with an emphasis on technical issues that mosteffect the decision to become an ATM user or ATM avoider. We also include a few tips andconsiderations for implementing ATM networks.
Because ATM is such a complex topic, at times the book's discussions may seem a bitover-technical - but we warn you when that happens (before your eyes glaze over). We clearlymark the affected paragraphs with an icon that identifies the passages as Technical Stuff.And we tell you what's really important to understand and what you can gloss over if you wish.

Foolish Assumptions
We don't assume that you have an encyclopedic knowledge of telecommunications andnetworking, but we do assume that you understand the basics - things like the basic makeup andusage of networks. And we do assume that you're knowledgeable about the needs of yourorganization's network and that you want to know whether ATM can meet those needs.
We don't just want you to take our word about ATM either, so interspersed throughout thebook you find editorials, testimonials, and opinions from lots of different people - including otherTeleChoice consultants, ATM vendors, ATM service providers, and real-life ATM end users - togive you a good idea where ATM stands and where its headed.
A word of warning - we've both been up to our ears for a bit too long in thetelecommunications world, the place that spawned the Dilbert cartoons (which often mirror ourworking lives a bit too closely), so if our humor seems a bit skewed to the techie, please oblige usand laugh anyway.And we both have small children (Cathy has three, Alex, Eric, and little Kara) and Chris has one(Ty). We, like many of you, have seen too many hours of children's TV; so if a reference to thepurple dino or any other similar character slips in, don't say we didn't warn you.

How This Book Is Organized
The rest of this introduction outlines the layout and contents of the book. We hope that thisorganization makes finding exactly what you're looking for on the subject of ATM even easier.The book is divided into four main parts, with two supporting appendixes at the end.

Part I: Finding Out Why, What, Where, Who, And When
The only way to get into a complex technology like ATM is to start at the ground floor. InPart I, we'll break down ATM for you - and explain what the pieces and parts are all about, andwhy you should know about them. We'll give you a good overview of ATM, including what it'sused for, and who's pulling the strings that make ATM happen. Part I is the place to get started ifyou know absolutely nothing about ATM.
This part is less technical than the remaining parts of the book and provides a good overviewwithout requiring prior knowledge of a lot of networking terms. We even give you a chapter toread if you just want to be able to converse ill ATMese - that's the secret language known only tothose fully initiated in the deep, dark secrets of ATM. (We'll even share with you the special rightof initiation into ATM's secret club.)

Part II: Finding Out How ATM Works
Part II of the book digs into the components and standards of ATM in more technical detail.Do you like fun networking stuff like protocols. interoperability, service quality, network usage.and so on? Well then, this is the part for you.
Do you hate stuff like that, but still need to get a handle on it? Our goal is to present thisinformation in a way that keeps you from pulling out all your hair and keeps you away from thathuge container of ice cream hot fudge, or your indulgence of choice. (Of course, after yousuccessfully get through the chapters in Part II, you have reason to dig into these delicacies incelebration!) So dig in, discover ATM, and (we hope) have a bit of fun.
You can also use this part as a technical resource to look up technical terms as you needthem. If you don't need to understand a lot about technology in your job, you can skip thissection.Just use it as a handy reference on those rare occasions that you have to understand howsomething works.

Part III: Investing In ATM: Decisions, Decisions!
In Part III, we discuss many risks and benefits that adopting ATM carries with it. Our goal isto give you the tools you need to make a sound decision about using ATM yourself. We coverconsiderations for both your local and wide area networks and include a few practical thoughts onjustifying and implementing your network.
This part adds a bonus: real-world case studies of companies and organizations that are usingATM right now - today! We let you know what trials and tribulations these organizations wentthrough and what payoffs they're getting from their investment.

Part IV: The Part of Tens
Although we're big fans of a well-written chapter that digs into detail and provides athorough explanation of an important subject, we recognize that sometimes a short, quickreference is what you need. This part of the book is designed to be just that - a place to dig upsome quick facts or to find the answers in a nice, easy, distilled format. This is also the part whereyou can find a list of additional resources and references for ATM.

Part V: Appendixes
Just because the appendixes come last doesn't mean you should ignore them. In Part V of thebook, we provide you with detailed information about the ATM Forum (the international bodythat provides a lot of the standards and marketing support for ATM) - including information onhow you can (and whether you should) join the Forum.
We also provide a glossary of ATM terms, so that you have a place to find out the differencebetween a FUNI and a UNI.

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I remember first reading about ATM on March 30, 1987, as a graduate student at Indiana University. For idle amusement, I used to go to the university's main library and pick books off the shelves at random, then open them to any page at all and start reading. On that particular night, the library's TK-TL section (where Mr. Dewey and his Decimals kept engineering texts) looked enticing and I happened upon the "Conference Record of the International Conference on Communications," dated June 1977, which contained Forgie and Nemeth's paper on "An efficient packetized voice/data network using statistical flow control." In 1977, the acronym ATM hadn't been concocted yet, but this paper, and others like it, introduced me to such concepts as virtual circuit and uniform-sized packets. I was fascinated and remain so to this day.
Now, the reason I can pinpoint this night with such certitude is because - while I was Inside reading about this strange new technology (and wondering why the library was all but vacant) - the Indiana Hoosiers were busy winning the NCAA championship in New Orleans. The rest of the population of Bloomington, ablaze in rapturous giddiness, had taken temporary leave of its collective sanity. Inside the library's windowless walls, I was oblivious to all of this. Indeed, I didn't even realize our university had a basketball team to speak of. At 11:30, a voice on the speaker system Interrupted the quiet solitude: "The library will be closing in 15 minutes." Reluctantly, I packed my book bag, slung it over my shoulder, and walked out the front door into.....utter pandemonium! I watched with a mixture of confusion, awe, and trepidation as bumper-to- bumper cars, theirhorns blaring and crammed to the gills with way too many overly exuberant students, stood deadlocked in the worst traffic jam I'd ever seen. I guess my book bag gave me away because cries of "Whatta geek!" and "You nerd!" accompanied me all the way home.
You won't find much argument with the assertion that in 1987, ATM's intrigue was limited to hard-core geeks and nerds. At that time, ATM existed merely as ink on a small but increasing number of very dry research papers on queuing theory, switch fabric design, and other heady matters - topics that held zero relevance to the daily concerns of network managers and planners. After several years, however, ATM slowly coalesced, and articles began to surface in the popular trade press. (My guess is that the l0baseT versus Token Ring wars were subsiding and telecommunications geeks had to have something controversial to write about.)
By 1992, the hype surrounding ATM was beginning to escalate and, still very much interested in the technology, I formulated (petitioned?) a Usenet Call For Votes to create a newsgroup called comp.dcom.cell-relay. I intended to provide a discussion forum for All Things ATM. The vote passed, and in May of that year, the first messages started flowing. As is often the case on Usenet, the hype melted like butter against the fiery words of many of the newsgroup's contributors.
While the newsgroup has been a blessing in the years since, I have often wished for a book about ATM that would distill the relevant pieces of this multifaceted and complex technology into a manageable form and present it in a way that clarifies its application in real-world networks. In other words, a book that provides, in a layperson's terms, answers to questions like: How do I use this stuff? What does it buy me? What do I need to get started? ATM For Dummies is that book! My thanks go out to the authors and to the folks at TeleChoice for a job well done.

Allen Robel
Senior Network Analyst
Indiana University

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2000

    Great intro to the ATM World

    This look at ATM (although a bit dated) is an excellent introduction to this technology, taking a look at various ATM standards, how ATM can be used in networks, and competing technologies. The first part of the book gives the 'basics' of ATM and what 'advantages' ATM has over other networking technologies. It also discusses in some detail what ATM 'cells' are, which are the 'main building block' of ATM. Later chapters describe the basic ATM structures, functions and standards. it also discusses ATM protocols. Later chapters explain how to evaluate ATM for either a Wide Area or Local Area Network, and examples of places succesfully using ATM technology. The final few chapters (aka the Part of Tens) contains handy reference information, including tips for succesful ATM projects, Reasons to (or not to) consider using ATM, along with a list of ATM information sources. I also liked the various sidebars located at the end of most chapters in the book, which made the concepts covered in each chapter easier to learn and remember. Most chapters also start off with a table of acronyms that are used in that chapter. I found this also helpful in understanding the information presented. This Dummies book hits its mark. It's a good overall view of how ATM works.

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