Extreme Scales Heights With Alpine Switches

SANTA CLARA, CALIF. (04/14/2000) - Extreme Networks this week will unveil its official entry into the metropolitan-area network (MAN) market with switches that provision high-speed Ethernet services to enterprises.

The Alpine 3800 switches are composed of four- and eight-slot chassis housing Gigabit Ethernet, SONET and wavelength division multiplexing modules for delivering Ethernet services over an optical infrastructure. They are targeted at service providers offering optical Ethernet MAN services to businesses in a metropolitan area of up to 43 miles.

The new Alpine switches are intended to let service providers replace the unwieldy, voice-optimized SONET infrastructures in their MANs. The switches scale from 128 to 256 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet ports, and 16 to 32 Gigabit Ethernet ports.

In order to provide the flexibility of a data-optimized network while retaining the benefits of SONET, the Alpine switches include a number of service features. One is IP time-division multiplexing (TDM), which is a circuit emulation technology that provides fixed latency circuits for voice and video traffic.

The switches also provide SONET-like reliability, Extreme says, in that they provide full link redundancy without having to reserve a back-up path for data.

Other features include bandwidth by the slice, which enables enterprises to order fractional Ethernet services from their service providers; usage-based billing; and virtual MAN services, which tag the Ethernet frames of non-IP packets - such as DECnet, SNA and AppleTalk - so they can be tunneled through the MAN.

The Alpine switches will also feature integrated 10G bit/sec, 22-mile wave division multiplexing (WDM), for increasing the capacity of MAN fiber, and packet-over-SONET (POS) modules. The OC-3 and OC-12 POS modules are intended as SONET-to-Ethernet migration products and for service providers that stay with SONET.

Enterprise angle

Although the switches are intended for service-provider networks, they can also be used as high-density modular wiring closet switches for enterprises.

Air Products and Chemicals in Allentown, Pennsylvania., is testing the switches as a workgroup aggregation replacement for the 3Com CoreBuilder switches it had in wiring closets.

3Com announced it is exiting the large enterprise market and discontinuing the CoreBuilder line.

"I think we'll probably depreciate [the 3Com switches] a little quicker than originally planned," says Jeff Priester, global manager of network engineering.

"So we're eyeing the wiring closet solutions of the future and Alpine is one.

It looks pretty solid but we haven't committed to anything."

Air Products is also evaluating Cisco's and Nortel Networks' offerings, but its core and data center network is now composed of Extreme BlackDiamond and Summit switches.

The eight-slot Alpine 3808 will be available in May. The four-slot Alpine 3804 will be available in June. Entry-level configurations start at $25,000.

The WDM feature will ship in the third quarter. At that time, Extreme will add an eight-channel WDM add/ drop multiplexer to the BlackDiamond switch that allows the switch to add or subtract wavelengths to or from a fiber ring. The POS modules will ship in the fourth quarter.

Extreme: www.extremenetworks.com

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