Intel to make big Net splash

Intel will significantly expand its network arsenal next month with the introduction of a gigabit data centre switch and new routers for small and midsize enterprises.

Already a leading supplier of Gigabit Ethernet adapters, Intel will add a modular gigabit switch that can serve as a high-performance Layer 3 forwarding engine at the network core, according to documents obtained by US Network World. The company will also roll out two new routers to connect branch offices and regional sites to each other and to central sites.

In October, Intel is expected to take the wraps off a central site router to aggregate links coming in from the new branch and regional site routers.

The product launches, the first of which is expected around the time of NetWorld+ Interop '99 Atlanta, are intended to further Intel's efforts to grow its network business at twice the industry rate.

Intel is trying to leverage its presence at the desktop, says Esmeralda Silva, LAN analyst at IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts. "The company has good brand-name recognition, which is really what it's all about in that small and midsize network market," she says.

Intel declined comment on the upcoming product launch.

In gigabit switching, Intel will face the toughest competition from Cisco, 3Com, Nortel Networks and Hewlett-Packard. These four companies account for 70 per cent of the market, Silva says.

Intel's offering, which is code-named Brewster, will be a chassis-based switch supporting eight-port 1000Base-SX Gigabit Ethernet modules and 24-port, copper-based 10/100Mbit/sec autosensing Ethernet modules. Sources say Brewster's maximum port capacity will be 32 gigabit and 96 10/100 Ethernet ports, and the switch will forward traffic at 47.5 million packets/sec.

The Intel documents indicate the Brewster line may be labelled the Intel 6000 series when it ships this fall. In addition to Layer 3 forwarding, early next year Brewster will gain Layer 4 traffic classification and link aggregation capabilities. The switch will feature redundant backplanes, fans, power supplies and central processing modules. The processor and power supplies will be hot-swappable, as will the media modules.

Pricing for Brewster could not be learned by press time, but Silva says it would have to be priced between $US500 and $1000 per Gigabit Ethernet port to be competitive.

The regional and branch office routers are called the 9500 and 8200. Configuration details on these devices were not in the Intel documents, but they did state that the products will support frame relay and X.25 data links, hardware-based wire-speed compression, and traffic shaping tools to improve the efficiency of WAN use. The routers also feature traffic logging tools and will ship with Intel DeviceView software for configuration and management.

The 9500 and 8200 will replace Intel's existing Express 8100 and 9000 branch and regional site routers, according to the documents.

The Express 8100 router has a single 10/100 Ethernet LAN port and a single WAN port -- 128Kbit/sec ISDN or 1.5Mbit/sec T-1, frame relay or X.25. The Express 9000 routers have two WAN ports that support a total of 3Mbit/sec. If just one port is used, it can support 2Mbit/sec.

The 9500 and 8200 routers are expected to ship early next month and be on display at the Atlanta Interop show.

The central site router due in October is code-named Pt. Reyes. The documents did not provide technical detail about this device, but it may be similar to Intel's ShivaIntegrator 500, a central site router currently sold overseas.

The ShivaIntegrator 500 is a three-slot chassis that supports Basic and Primary Rate Interface ISDN, frame relay, leased lines, X.25 and dial-up.

Pt. Reyes will ship in late October or early November, according to the documents.

In related news, Intel is planning the evolution of Shiva's LANRover VPN Gateway from a VPN box to an integrated access device that can handle voice and data. Products are still a year away, according to Michael Duffy, business unit manager of Intel's WAN Systems Operation.

Dave Kosiur, an analyst with The Burton Group, a technology evaluation firm in Midvale, Utah, says: "I think that direction makes sense. The trend I see among VPN manufacturers is putting one box at the edge of the enterprise that provides a number of services that you can turn on and off without replacing hardware."

Kosiur noted that the quality-of-service guarantees that would be necessary for voice and policy-based management are still developing, and it will probably be a year before they are ready to integrate with each other in standards-based products.

Intel is looking to build equipment that includes routing and bandwidth management. It will extend IP Security from the WAN to desktops using VPN-enabled network interface cards.

That architecture would support encryption of data not only between sites but within LANs as well. It would also make it possible to streamline policy management by centralising all policies in a single database.

While the Shiva brand name will remain as "Shiva from Intel" for the next year, Intel is dreaming up a new name for the Shiva product line,which will include the VPN gear, as well as the routers.

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