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A gigabit interface converter
) is a standard for transceiver
A transceiver is a device comprising both a transmitter and a receiver which are combined and share common circuitry or a single housing. When no circuitry is common between transmit and receive functions, the device is a transmitter-receiver. The term originated in the early 1920s...
s, commonly used with Gigabit Ethernet
Gigabit Ethernet is a term describing various technologies for transmitting Ethernet frames at a rate of a gigabit per second , as defined by the IEEE 802.3-2008 standard. It came into use beginning in 1999, gradually supplanting Fast Ethernet in wired local networks where it performed...
and fibre channel
Fibre Channel, or FC, is a gigabit-speed network technology primarily used for storage networking. Fibre Channel is standardized in the T11 Technical Committee of the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards , an American National Standards Institute –accredited standards...
in the 1990s. By offering a standard, hot swappable electrical interface, one gigabit port can support a wide range of physical media, from copper to long-wave single-mode optical fiber
In fiber-optic communication, a single-mode optical fiber is an optical fiber designed to carry only a single ray of light . Modes are the possible solutions of the Helmholtz equation for waves, which is obtained by combining Maxwell's equations and the boundary conditions...
, at lengths of hundreds of kilometers.
A variation of the GBIC called the small form-factor pluggable transceiver (SFP), also known as mini-GBIC, has the same functionality but in a smaller form factor. Announced in 2001, it largely made the GBIC obsolete.
The appeal of the GBIC standard (and hot-swappable transceivers in general) in networking equipment, as opposed to fixed physical interface configurations, is its flexibility. Where multiple different optical technologies are in use, an administrator can purchase GBICs as needed, not in advance, and they can be the specific type needed for each link. This lowers the cost of the base system and gives the administrator far more flexibility. On the other hand if a switch will mostly have one port type (especially if that port type is copper) purchasing a switch with that port type built in will be cheaper and take up less space per port.
The GBIC standard is non-proprietary and is defined by the Small Form Factor committee
The Small Form Factor committee is an ad hoc electronics industry group formed to quickly develop interoperability specifications ....
in document number 8053i. The first publication of the proposal was in November 1995. A few corrections and additions were made through September 2000. Robert Snively of Brocade Communications was technical editor. Original contributors were AMP Incorporated, Compaq Computers
Compaq Computer Corporation is a personal computer company founded in 1982. Once the largest supplier of personal computing systems in the world, Compaq existed as an independent corporation until 2002, when it was acquired for US$25 billion by Hewlett-Packard....
, Sun Microsystems
Sun Microsystems, Inc. was a company that sold :computers, computer components, :computer software, and :information technology services. Sun was founded on February 24, 1982...
, and Vixel Corporation.