Gotham reveals gear in D.C.

By Tim Greene, Network World |  Networking

Gotham Networks is unveiling its first product this week at Next Generation Networks, a "switchless switch" for carriers that spans the gap between customers and service-provider core networks.

Gotham will introduce the GN 1600, a switching/routing device located between customer traffic aggregation devices in carrier networks and carrier transport backbones. The GN 1600 is meant to streamline network design by performing, in a single box, functions that might otherwise be performed by multiple devices, such as frame relay and ATM switching and routing.

The GN 1600 can inspect packets down to the application layer to impose service-level agreements. It also can switch channels as small as 64K bit/sec and groom them to connections as large as OC-48, eliminating multiple boxes that would introduce complexity, cost and delay in networks.

Each physical port on a GN 1600 can be software-configured for virtually any protocol. So carrier customers will see faster provisioning times for services and will be able to switch from one service, such as frame relay, to another, such as IP, more easily, says Russ McGuire, vice president of TeleChoice, a telecom consulting firm in Boston.

By "switchless switch," Gotham means that the GN 1600 is a modular device with no central switching fabric and no central processing unit for the entire chassis. Instead, each card is equipped with a 750-MHz power PC processor that can handle the card's own switching. That means service providers using the gear can install a single card and use it without having to buy central processing cards or a switching card that can handle all the traffic coming through a fully loaded box.

When a chassis has multiple cards, the processor on each card is assigned certain tasks for all the other active slots in the chassis.

For example, the processor in slot 1 might handle SNMP management requests for the chassis, while the processor in slot 2 handles set-up and tear-down of ATM circuits and the processor in slot 3 handles traffic engineering for Multi-protocol Label Switching flows. A back-up processor is assigned to each primary processor.

SmartService software, which is distributed throughout the device, assigns each processing task to a primary processor and also designates a backup. These assignments take place automatically when the boxes boot up.

Traffic forwarding is processed independently of these other functions on input/output cards. Initially the capacity of a fully loaded single chassis will be 80G bit/sec, but that will grow to 1.2T bit/sec over time. A fully loaded chassis can handle 5,000 DS-1 channels, 768 DS-3 channels, or 256 OC-3/Ethernet Ports.

Trials of GN 1600 start early next year, and the box will ship by mid-2001, the company says.

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