IBM Fills Out Ethernet Switch Family

Ethernet has always been somewhat the bane of IBM Corp.'s existence, but Big Blue is finally coming around.

The company this week rolled out two low-cost Ethernet switches de-signed to help high-end users link workgroups to high-speed Gigabit Ethernet or ATM backbones.

IBM claims the devices will be as much as 50 percent less expensive than similar products offered by established Ethernet vendors such as Cisco, Nortel Networks and Extreme Networks.

The announcement fulfills part of IBM's goal of providing a group of competitive Ethernet products - something it lacked for years.

In the past six months, the company has added low-cost Ethernet hubs and workgroup switches to its fledgling Ethernet family.

IBM introduced the latest members this week -- the 8371 Multilayer Ether-net Switch and the 8274 Nways LAN RouteSwitch Model GRS.

The two-slot 8371 is a Layer 3 switch designed to link Ethernet desktops, hubs and switches to ATM or Fast Ethernet backbone networks and servers.

The box can function as a stand-alone unit, or customers can buy an 8371 module that fits in IBM's 8265 Nways ATM Switch.

The box can be outfitted with a two-port 155M-bit-per-second ATM uplink and eight-port 10/100Base-TX or eight-port 100Base-FX Ethernet boards.

The nine-slot 8274 GRS was built for IBM by Xylan. Designed as a campus backbone switch, the 8274 is designed to move data between high-speed desktops, high-speed servers and an ATM backbone. Optional modules can support Fast Ethernet or Gigabit Ether-net uplinks, as well.

The device supports up to eight modules of 2G/4G-bps Gigabit Ethernet ports, 32 10/100M-bps Ethernet ports or 32 token-ring ports. A dual-port 155M-bps ATM module provides ATM uplink support.

According to Nick Balafas, product marketing manager for Layer 3 Ethernet switches at IBM, this version of the 8274 improves the backplane performance of the current 8274 from 1G bps to 22G bps. The box's routing capacity has been increased from 230,000 packet/sec to 1.2 million to 12 million packet/sec.

At least one user applauded the new IBM products.

Curtis Blais, network specialist at Telus Communications, a large company in Edmonton, Canada that uses Ethernet and token ring, says he's happy to see IBM finally get serious about Ethernet. "IBM is no longer only a token-ring vendor," Blais says.

The 8274 GRS will cost about US$299 per port, depending on configuration. It will be available in April. The 8371 starts at $9,995 and will be available Feb. 28.

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