the Pipeline

Perking up performance

Foundry Networks Inc. officials have added support for IPv6 to the company's flagship network hardware, the NetIron 40G router and the BigIron MG8 switch. The two products are 10 Gigabit Ethernet platforms intended for service providers and enterprise organizations.

IPv6 is the next generation of Internet Protocol and has been gradually replacing the 20-year-old IPv4 during the past several years. Foundry officials introduced IPv6 support to other products in their line in 2003, said Bob Schiff, the company's director of product marketing.

The Defense Department must move all of its networks to IPv6 by 2008, DOD officials announced last year.

Similar to other companies, Foundry is trying to build products that will support both the older and newer standards so organizations will have an easier transition, he said. "That will enable customers to switch IPv6 on without having to forklift in components," Schiff said. "The fact that you can operate mixed networks is comforting to a customer."

The new IP is more secure than its predecessor, another reason for its importance to some federal agencies, he said.

"It's [DOD officials] who are most active in asking about it," he said. "They're putting in place the qualifications that include IPv6."

Schiff touted Foundry's experience with the protocol. "We're currently in the midst of an evaluation in Japan with our IPv6 solution," he said. "As you get more customer exposure, naturally you get very useful field data."

DataPower Technology Inc. officials are about to announce their new XG4 family of Extensible Markup Language-aware networking components. DataPower builds a chip and related firmware elements that can be embedded into data-center infrastructure components.

The XG4 family now processes data at 1 gigabit/sec, which had been the next major milestone to cross, according to chairman and chief technology officer Eugene Kuznetsov. That means it can route data quickly enough that a network's overall performance will not be affected.

"XG4 makes performance not an issue," he said. "There are still people out there who say, 'We can't use XML because it's too slow and too verbose.' The fact that it is now possible to process XML at a gigabit/sec in a little module means there's no reason not to use XML in your network."

The technology allows network managers to set up input/output control devices to read XML and route data to the right applications, said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects Inc. Application servers typically are made to parse XML, taking time and power away from running applications. DataPower's products can free the servers from that chore.

"XML is becoming the lingua franca of applications communications," Dzubeck said. "It's the way they talk. The unfortunate thing is [that] it's been designed properly so you can talk to legacy applications as well as new applications."

A proper design is unfortunate because it greatly increases the amount of data that systems have to be able to handle, he said. "That means the traffic is going to increase exponentially with this," he added.

The XG4 products are "much faster, much smaller, much more embeddable and more secure" than previous products, Kuznetsov said.

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