New token-ring LANs close in on Fast Ethernet speeds

Token-ring LANs are following Fast Ethernet into the 100-Mbps range.

Under the emerging High-Speed Token-Ring standard, Olicom USA Inc. of Plano, Texas, has
introduced a 100-Mbps file server adapter and a switch uplink module. Both HSTR products
will reduce congestion on LAN backbones and extend the life of aging token-ring networks,
said Dan Jude, senior product marketing manager.

Although most desktop users find the standard token-ring 4- and 16-Mbps rates adequate,
Jude said, HSTR products reduce the congestion at two network chokepoints: between
switches and at server links.

Token-ring LANs, which follow the Institute of Electrical and Electronics
Engineers’ 802.5 standard, pass along a supervisory frame, or token, that gives each
station in turn the full network bandwidth. But token-ring has not been growing for some
time, and Jude said less than 5 percent of new network installations employ it today.

Even so, an estimated 22 million nodes are still operating, and token-ring is a $2
billion industry, he said.

“The government has got some huge installed token-rings,” he said.

The HSTR standard could receive IEEE approval by the end of this year. Jude said the
current draft probably will not change significantly, and manufacturers are confident they
can make products interoperable.

“We have guaranteed our customers that if there are any changes, our hardware will
be upgradeable,” he said.

The RapidFire 3530 HSTR 100 PCI Adapter boosts bandwidth between the file server and
Olicom’s CrossFire 8600 Token Ring Switch.

The HSTR Uplink module for the 8600 switch has two 100-Mbps HSTR ports for server
connections or for fast switch-to-switch connections.

The uplink module can have up to 32 HSTR switch ports configured in a single stack,
along with up to 160 standard 16-Mbps ports. Olicom plans to release an HSTR switch in
early 1999.

The RapidFire adapter is $350. The CrossFire Uplink module price is $1,100; a
multimode-fiber version set for release this month is $1,350.   

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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