Madge unveils multilayer switch

Madge Networks Inc. introduced today what the company said is the first multilayer switch that allows routing to be done entirely in hardware a feature that increases performance and reduces price.

Madge's 3LS is an all-silicon module that turns the company's LANswitch switching hub into a multilayer Internet Protocol/Internet Packet Exchange (IP/IPX) switch. The 3LS is capable of connecting up to 128 Ethernet segments including up to 250 IP or IPX subnets taking full advantage of a network connection's maximum speed. The product is called multilayer because it combines the functionality of local-area network switches (Layer Two switching in the Open Systems Interconnection model) with that of routers (Layer Three in the OSI model).

The 3LS will be added to the General Services Administration schedule by the end of February. It also will be added to the National Institutes of Health's Electronic Computer Store under Electronic Data Systems Corp. and to NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement II under Unisys Corp. among other contracts. It is shipping this month and lists at $16 995.

Gordon Graves director of government education and medical sales at Madge said it may be a challenge to convince agencies to add a requirement for multilayer switches to their procurements because it is a new technology. "Procurements are requesting either routers or switches and agencies are not taking advantage of combining the two into one " he said. "They're not taking advantage of multilayer switching."

However once users see the price and the benefits it can provide Graves said he anticipates a "very good" reception.

The 3LS is capable of a throughput rate of more than 400 000 packets per second and integrates with the LANswitch backplane which has interfaces to Ethernet Fast Ethernet Fiber Distributed Data Interface and Asynchronous Transfer Mode. The initial release of the 3LS will support Ethernet and FDDI. Future releases will also support Token Ring and ATM.

Madge says the 3LS offers four times the performance of a Cisco Systems Inc. 7500 router at half the price. The 3LS eliminates the performance bottlenecks of traditional routers and because it supports virtual networking makes user moves and changes on the network easier according to Madge.

"Routers are expensive for the amount of capacity they provide " said Martin Taylor Madge's vice president of network architecture. "They need to be constantly upgraded. Switches don't hit their limits as much."

A First

Taylor said Madge is the first vendor to successfully implement the routing process on routing chips. "We get 400 000-packets-per-second throughput " he said. "With chips we can get that performance at LAN switching prices."

While the 3LS routes only IP and IPX "that is 95 percent of the traffic in LANs " Taylor said. "The other 5 percent we bridge."

Although there are switches on the market that can perform routing functionality "what's significant is that the [3LS] is a real router that's a switch " said Karl Shimada vice president of market research at Rising Star Research. "To another router on the network this will look exactly like a router."

The 3LS has better performance than routers and all the security features of routing such as packet filtering he added.

In independent tests the 3LS has routed hundreds of thousands of packets per second for IP and IPX at full wire speed without dropping a frame something Shimada said is unusual. "That's all accountable to hardware " he said.

Government users who have a network with a routed infrastructure and who experience congestion at the desktop should be interested in this product Shimada said. He added that routers will not go away. Users still need them to route other protocols and to provide wide-area access he said.


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