Caspian plans superfast routing for the 'Net core

Led by Internet legend Lawrence Roberts, well-funded start-up Caspian Networks says it will deliver a switch capable of handling projected 100 terabit/sec IP traffic loads at the 'Net's core.

While Roberts won't say just how fast Caspian's device will be, he did say the company is building what he called an IP optical superswitch designed to replace the fastest core routers, such as those made by Cisco and Juniper. The device will replace existing terabit switch-routers and will require no changes to other devices in the network, he says.

Roberts, one of the four acknowledged creators of the Internet, says the device would enforce quality-of-service (QoS) policies designated by enterprise WAN access gear. This would enable service providers to offer service-level agreements on IP traffic as it flowed across the 'Net. There is no such end-to-end mechanism today, he says. He says new switches with QoS features to support voice and video will be needed because the volume and variety of Internet traffic is growing eightfold per year with no sign of letting up.

He says Caspian's superswitch will parse IP packet headers, identify flows, then lock a brief flow header on the rest of the packets in the flow to ensure the appropriate QoS. The processing power needed to do this will come from custom chips performing processing in parallel.

Roberts says IP packet headers contain enough information to quickly set up data streams across the core of the Internet that will support QoS requests. What is needed is a device that can quickly read and process data in these headers differently than today's routers, he says.

These QoS requests can be part of frame relay, ATM or IP headers. The IP optical superswitch would somehow translate ATM and frame relay traffic to IP in some other, more efficient way than encapsulating it in an IP packet. However, Roberts would not say how that would be done.

Eastern Mountain Group analyst David Yedwab, who Caspian has briefed under the condition that he not reveal product plans, says Caspian has several unique innovations to support its proposed gear.

The company's devices will have enough intelligence to keep track of routes through the network, and quickly and automatically set up alternative routes in the case of failure, Roberts says.

Other core router vendors say they are building devices that will be fast enough to last three years in core networks before being overwhelmed by increasing Internet traffic, Yedwab says. Caspian's equipment will have enough capacity that it should have a longer life than that, he says.

It is supposed to go to testing in service provider networks this month.

This story, "Caspian plans superfast routing for the 'Net core " was originally published by Network World.

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