GigaLabs revs Gigabit Ethernet switch

GigaLabs Inc. announced today a backbone Gigabit Ethernet switch that the company says will enable government users to take advantage of their high-end workstations.

The GigaStar 3000 provides Gigabit Ethernet and input/output switching in the same device. The product offers up to eight full-duplex Gigabit Ethernet or GigaPipe ports with an 18 gigabit/sec backplane. The GigaPipe interface allows the switch to connect directly to the server via the GigaLabs I/O network interface card (NIC). The switch also can connect to the legacy local-area network backbone through the company's GigaStar 100 workgroup switch.

Vendors are touting Gigabit Ethernet as the next high-speed networking technology for the LAN backbone [FCW Feb. 3]. GigaLabs was among the vendors discussing or displaying Gigabit Ethernet technology at the recent ComNet show in Washington D.C. (see related story Page 35).

"Any place in government where there is a large installed base of Sun [Microsystems Inc.] and Silicon Graphics [Inc. workstations] is a great place for the GigaStar 3000 " said John Bodine federal sales manager at GigaLabs. "Any agencies that are migrating from shared to switched Ethernet would be great candidates. This will reduce the bottleneck to the server."

GigaLabs which opened its federal office last December in Bethesda Md. plans to add the GigaStar 3000 to the National Institutes of Health's Electronic Computer Store under Federal Data Corp.'s contract and to Federal Data's General Services Administration Schedule B/C. GigaLabs also will add the switch to a NASA Langley Research Center contract under Sylvest Management Systems Corp. a NASA Ames Research Center contract under Government Micro Resources Inc. and NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement II.

Key features of the GigaStar 3000 include a low latency of 750 nanoseconds which is the time it takes to set up and break down connections in the switch fabric. The GigaStar 3000 also allows only a single hop between the input port and output port on the switch. This is like "having separate wires connecting a telephone to a telephone rather than connecting them through a PBX " said Ko Leong president of GigaLabs."These characteristics make our switch of a different performance category than other switches " Leong said. "They are borrowed from the supercomputer category."

Leong said NASA and other agencies with high-end workstations have expressed interest in the switch. "Most workstations such as those from Sun Microsystems Sil-icon Graphics Hewlett-Packard and others are currently connected by Fast Ethernet " he said. "This is an absolute mismatch because those machines are expensive and capable of performing at much higher speeds. They all have a much higher-speed pipe coming out called the High-Performance Parallel Interface." HIPPI is a network connection developed for supercomputers.

Frank Dzubeck president of Communications Network Architects Inc. said the GigaStar 3000 is a great product to link high-end workstations because it provides a direct high-speed link to the server. "In the federal market it has a place " Dzubeck said. "The switch is really an I/O switch which in the government isn't bad. HIPPI is a standard in the government. In the government you win the war by how well you meet the [request for proposals] and how you benchmark. These guys will benchmark well."

But he added that the switch still only partially supports the Gigabit Ethernet standard which will not be ratified until 1998. In addition the switch cannot tie directly into the legacy LAN backbone which should be a concern to agencies that want to use it that way Dzubeck said. It is appropriate "if you want to network a few servers and don't want to connect to the LAN " he added.

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