Vendors display converged net technology

The buzzword at the ComNet '99 conference late last month in Washington, D.C., was "convergence," with many exhibitors announcing and demonstrating products aimed at running voice over the Internet and other data networks.

Vendors said they are seeing increased interest in these products among federal customers, although they added that most customers are still in the early stages of testing the technology.

"We are still heavily involved in trials," said Kathleen Meier, general manager of Internet communications at Lucent Technologies Inc. "If this technology exists in agencies, it's probably in the labs."

At the show, Cisco Systems Inc. unveiled its Catalyst 6000 family of multigigabit enterprise switches designed to handle video, voice and data applications.

"Many customers are saying, 'We need more bandwidth, and we want to look at running merged networks,' " said Bob Deutsch, systems engineering director at Cisco Federal. "They need to have a box that processes data faster."

The product family includes the Catalyst 6000 Series and the Catalyst 6500 Series, both of which come in six- and nine-slot versions and are designed for the campus environment. The high end of the Catalyst 6000 family can support up to

384 10/100 megabits/sec ports or up to 130 Gigabit Ethernet ports and can forward traffic at speeds up to 200 million packets per second. The devices function as Layer 2 and Layer 3 switches.

"The Catalyst will be able to classify data into different traffic classes and eventually be able to forward high-priority traffic" over low-priority traffic, Deutsch said.

He said Catalyst products also support multicasting, which is particularly important in the video environment. "They allow us to take single pieces of information and forward that to all users at one point in time," he said.

Lucent unwrapped new gateway, gatekeeper and network management products for its PacketStar voice-over-Internet-Protocol family. The PacketStar IP Gateway 1000 compresses, decompresses and packetizes voice for transmission over the Internet. The PacketStar IP Gatekeeper routes traffic between gateways while providing authentication and billing support services. The PacketStar IP Manager provides a graphical user interface to enable managers to centrally monitor their networks.

The products are targeted for release on Feb. 26. The Gateway will be priced commercially at $325 to $600 per port, while the Gatekeeper and IP Manager will list at $150,000 and $45,000 respectively.

Lucent also launched a new release of its PacketStar access concentrators, which include the DSP2 voice server module for voice service over Asynchronous Transfer Mode networks. The module provides compression, which company officials said could save up to 66 percent of bandwidth, and echo cancellation and silence suppression for high-quality voice transmission.

John Duker, data sales manager at Lucent's Government Solutions group, said the Army and the Navy plan to deploy the new module as a way to save bandwidth using an off-the-shelf solution. "The real significance of this is being able to pack 12 pounds of potatoes into a three-pound bag," he said.

Elsewhere, the TimePlex Group announced an enhancement to its ST-1000 switch that, when used with the company's AD-10/FR2 gateway products, will enable users to transmit voice over frame relay and IP. Using TimePlex's CX-1500 access devices, users can run these voice services over their ATM infrastructures, a company spokeswoman said.

Lewis Shadle, vice president of TimePlex Federal Systems, said he expects the products to appeal to federal customers in the intelligence community, which he described as "very IP-centric," or in the Navy, where some officials are pushing for voice services over ATM.

Putting voice, video and data over one network is very attractive from purely a cost perspective, said consultant Warren Suss, president of Warren H. Suss Associates. However, in some cases the quality of voice and video transmission "is not quite there," he said.

Suss added that some federal users may resist using voice over IP until "they see objective proof that their security needs are met," Suss said.

In Other ComNet News

* Lancast Inc. announced its new CenturyStack 8100 Managed Hub Series, which offers stackable, dual-speed connectivity for workgroups and small-office local-area networks. The CenturyStack can be managed from anywhere via a World Wide Web browser, regardless of the platform on which it resides. It comes with

12 or 24 auto-sensing 10/100 megabits/sec Ethernet ports. It supports up to six hubs per stack for a total of 144 ports.

Lancast also demonstrated its new Millennium Switch, which is a 10/100 megabits/sec switch that provides eight or 12 ports for dual-speed Ethernet switching.

The products will be available on the General Services Administration schedule and other governmentwide contracts, including the Unified Local-Area Network Architecture II contract under Electronic Data Systems Corp.

* Shiva Corp., which is being acquired by Intel Corp., made a series of announcements at ComNet, including introducing a new version of its direct-dial remote-access operating system called ShivOS 6.0. The new operating system supports 240 simultaneous Integrated Services Digital Network calls as well as multichassis Point-to-Point Protocol in the company's LanRover Access Switch. The product will be available on the GSA schedule.

***

Network convergence products at ComNet '99

Cisco Systems: Catalyst 6000 family of multigigabit enterprise switches.

Lucent Technologies: Net management and other products for PacketStar voice-over-IP family; and PacketStar access concentrators for voice-over-ATM support.

TimePlex Group: Support in ST-1000 switch for transmitting voice over frame relay and IP.

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