High-speed connectivity wares unveiled

High-speed local-area networking technology took center stage at last week's ComNet '98 show, as vendors introduced new cabling systems, routers and switches.

3M Corp. unveiled a new fiber-optic cabling system that the company said will cut in half the cost of laying fiber to the desktop.

Roxanne Dunegan, marketing development manager at 3M's Telecom Systems Division, said the company has reduced the cost of bringing fiber to the desktop by decreasing the number of electronic chips associated with each connection. She said the new Volition cabling system's cost runs at about $80 per connection, which she said is half the cost of traditional fiber desktop connections and only $18 more than a copper connection.

"We would like to start chopping away at that copper market," Dunegan said.

3M's Volition was installed successfully in a beta version last year at the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory. Paul Phillips, a communications engineer at the lab, said the facility has since upgraded to the final version of Volition.

''Impressive" Installation

Phillips said he has been impressed by Volition's easy installation process, which he described as "pretty much plug and play." Unlike traditional fiber connections, Volition uses a mechanism similar to standard telephone wall jacks that snap together, he said.

Phillips added that the Volition system's direct fiber-to-fiber connection allows for higher-quality transmissions because it eliminates "air gaps" that appear in traditional connections. Consequently, the system has elicited no complaints from Argonne's very critical high-end users. "You know something is working well when you don't get any calls or complaints," he said.

Although Phillips refused to comment on how much Argonne is saving by using Volition as opposed to other fiber systems, he said the cost was comparable to that of copper wiring.

On the downside, he said Volition has not been officially recognized as a standard by the Telecommunications Industry Association. "I would encourage them to accept it," he said.

Cabletron Announces Switch Routers

Cabletron Systems Inc. has announced a new, inexpensive switch-router line less than two weeks after buying start-up Yago Systems Inc., which supplied the technology for the new devices.

The SmartSwitch routers, models SS6000 and SS9000, offer the same level of security as routers' "wire speed" performance, but they are half the price, according to Bob Travis, director of product marketing and development for Cabletron's federal systems.

Cabletron already owned a 20 percent stake in Yago when it paid $213 million for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based maker of gigabit Ethernet routing switches, which are high-speed and capable of routing traffic based on application profiles.

"Agencies share the same business restraints" as private corporations, Travis said. "They need more bandwidth for videoconferencing over data networks, distance learning and information sharing among universities. These [applications] force networks to be supplemented."

Prices for the new SmartSwitch routers begin at $499 per port for Fast Ethernet, Cabletron said. The SS6000, with eight slots and up to 56 10/100 megabits/sec Ethernet ports and 14 gigabit Ethernet ports, will be available in the second quarter. The larger SS9000, with roughly double the capacity, is expected to begin shipping in the second half of this year.

Other ComNet News

Foundry Networks highlighted its Big-Iron family of backbone gigabit Ethernet switches designed for enterprises and Internet service providers. The Big-Iron chassis-based switch comes in four-slot and eight-slot versions and supports up to 100 million packets per second, 152 10/100 megabits/sec Ethernet ports and 64G Ethernet ports. They support switching, routing and Layer Four services such as access control and filtering.

XLNT announced it signed a pact with Wang Government Services Inc. to distribute the company's gigabit Ethernet products in the federal government. The move should help XLNT tap into the large installed base of Fiber Distributed Data Interface users who want to migrate to faster networking technologies such as gigabit Ethernet, said Mike Paluzzi, director of business development for XLNT. The firm has customers at Energy and NASA, among others.

The company also announced that its chassis-based Millennium 4000 gigabit Ethernet switch later this year will support an Asynchronous Transfer Mode module.

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