Sounds like failure

Network World, 03/01/99

An editorial on ATM in the February
issue of Business Communications
Review helped me to crystallize my thoughts on something that has
been vaguely bothering me for a long time: Why do some ATM
proponents sound like losers?

The editorial, "ATM: Networking's Swiss Army Knife?", is just the
sort of thing I've been reading about ATMin many publications for
the last few years.The editorial is an assertion that will be useful for
something any day now. But somehow that day is always just around
the corner, even though ATM is ready now.

The column ends by saying, "At least for now, however, ATM
remains the only technology that has proven it can deliver Swiss
Army knife-like functionality - a single package that can be used for a
multiplicity of purposes."

I've found this type of thing somehow disconcerting, though I did not
know why. The editorial helped me nail it down. The ATM advocates
are trying too hard.

I do not see the same sort of assertion of superiority from Gigabit
Ethernet or IP advocates, though a bit of it creeps in from time to time
on the token-ring front.

Devotees of most other technologies think it's better to heed
Shakespeare's note that "words are not deeds." They talk about the
things they have done rather than prophesy how great things will be
in the future.

Even when focusing on success stories, articles about ATM somehow
still come across as out of proportion to the importance of the
example. ATM proponents want readers to project some global
impact from a small hospital installing an ATM network.

I do not know if this behavior is as prevalent in the ATM camp as I
perceive it to be. I may be more sensitive to ATM marketing being
presented in the form of news articles than I am regarding other
technologies. If that is the case, it might be because I've been seeing it
for a longer time with ATM than with other technologies.

When a technology finds its place in the landscape, the number of
overhyped stories goes down, at least in the technical journals. At this
point, marketing stories about IP or Ethernet would seem very much
out of place and be seen as an indication that the author did not know
all that much about the topic. ATM has not reached that level of
maturity in spite of years of work and after years of great success in a
number of areas, including in ISP infrastructures.

It is a bit hard to understand why ATM advocates think they still have
to try so hard. Maybe it's because they are unwilling to accept that
ATM is good at what ATM is good at and still want to claim that it's
the general purpose network tool.

Disclaimer: It's far too late for Harvard not to overhype. In any case,
the above are my observations.