The Pipeline

New Rugged Switches

The phrase "planar lightwave circuit" sounds like something the crew aboard the starship USS Enterprise discusses before deciding to reverse its polarity and reconfigure its isolinear nanoreceptacles in a last-ditch attempt to vanquish the Klingons.

Lynx Photonic Networks would probably be offended, however, if you thought their LightLEADER family of photonic switches, built on that patented planar lightwave circuit technology, was merely sci-fi technobabble.

The network switches are already in use in Advanced Technology Demonstration Network (ATDNet), an experimental federal optical network that connects several research centers, including the Laboratory for Telecommunication Sciences and the Naval Research Laboratory. The switches have also survived stress tests that even Mr. Worf couldn't handle, operating at temperatures ranging from 266 degrees Fahrenheit to 130 degrees below zero.

"It is rugged, it is not bandwidth limited. If you change bandwidth, you don't have to change the switch," said Michael Leigh, president of Lynx, which is based in Calabasas Hills, Calif. "On top of that, they are running multiple formats of traffic through the switch without having to worry about what format the data is. You can't do that on legacy technologies."

Older switches slow down optical networks by converting the light stream back into electronic data to switch from one optical connection to another, he said. Lynx's technology allows the signal to remain in its lightwave form from end to end, even when passing through the switches.

The photon switches aren't the only new network products, though. SMC Networks Inc., of Irvine, Calif., recently debuted its low-priced EZ Card 1000, a 32-bit Gigabit Ethernet card for desktop computers. The card allows Ethernet connections of up to 1 gigabit/sec and carries a suggested retail price of $29.99. It joins the company's more versatile five- and eight-port EZ Switch 10/100/1000 switches.

Fabric Networks Inc., in Westborough, Mass., has introduced a 1.28 terabit switch for switched fabric networking, used in high-performance computer clusters. The FabNet 12800 switch is in development and slated for availability later this year.

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