IBM to Unveil High-Speed Network Chip

FRAMINGHAM (04/21/2000) - IBM Corp. will soon debut a high-speed network chip that promises to help users implement quality-of-service rules in their companies.

The company claims the IBM Power Network Processor, formerly code-named Rainier, can boost network throughput in devices by about 30%, as well as support high-speed encryption and decryption services. While IBM is out of the IP-Ethernet hardware business, it is still a significant OEM contributor to other vendors' devices, industry observers note. Big Blue competes with companies such as Lucent and Motorola to win the business of network vendors.

Members of IBM's microelectronics division are expected to show off the Power Network Processor at the upcoming NetWorld+ Interop 2000 in Las Vegas. The programmable chip will work in high-end IP devices and support Layer 2, 3, 4 and 5 switching and routing. IBM sources say the Power Network Processor will be used in a prototype IP switch at Interop.

The chip will run traffic at wire speed, IBM says. Initially, it will support 40 Fast Ethernet and four Gigabit Ethernet ports. It also supports packet-over-SONET traffic. Network managers will be able to program the chip to recognize priority IP packets and assign them bandwidth in advance. This will assist in implementing QoS or Differentiated Services throughout the network, IBM says.

While the company won't divulge names, it says there are a number of large network vendors interested in using the chip in their devices. These companies may include some of IBM's current chip customers, such as Alcatel SA or Nortel Networks Corp.

IBM is one of the market leaders in the network chip field, says Frank Dzubeck, head of Communications Network Architects, a Washington, D.C. consultancy.

The chips allow the network device manufacturers to reduce the number of individual components in their switches and routers, making the gear cheaper for end users. In the future, such chips from IBM could make OC-192 devices possible, he says.

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