LAYER 3 GIGABIT ETHERNET SWITCHES<@VM>Get 1-Gbps speed with one of these 26 switches

High-speed connections move to the front of the pack

By J.B. Miles
Special to GCN

The wait is over'Gigabit Ethernet has come into its own. It is now a strong technology with a set of mature standards that can deliver 1-Gbps speed across networks on both fiber-optic and Category 5 copper media, and it's beginning to outpace asynchronous transfer mode for high-bandwidth networking.

During the second quarter of this year, Gigabit Ethernet outshipped ATM LAN products for the first time. The margin likely will widen dramatically in the months to come as vendors ramp up to provide new Gigabit 1000Base-T products compatible with in-house Category 5 copper wiring.

This guide features Layer 3 Gigabit Ethernet switches intended for primary use as enterprise backbone switches and high-speed links for server farms. Units listed in the accompanying chart provide at least six, and usually more,

1-Gbps fiber-optic or copper-wire ports that may be configured in several ways. For example, you could have eight 1000Base-SX ports, or six 1000Base-SX and two 1000Base-LX ports, depending on the modules, or blades, that come with the switches.

1000Base-T coming

Right now, the majority of Gigabit Ethernet switch ports are either multimode fiber (SX) or single-mode fiber. There also is fiber for spanning long distances between or across campuses. But look for 1000Base-T switch configurations to come on strong in the months ahead.

Some models listed are pure Gigabit Ethernet switches, configurable only with Gigabit Ethernet ports. Others may also be configured with modules containing 10/100-Mbps Ethernet ports, or even ATM modules.

Typically, the aggregate capacity of each switch depends on the number and types of ports; 17.5 Gbps is common for an eight-port 1000Base-SX configuration.

For this guide, I distinguished between 10/100-Mbps Ethernet switches with one or two Gigabit Ethernet uplinks and switches that are essentially Gigabit-class.'The 10/100 Ethernet-Mbps switches are often used to link server farms with network backbones and may provide one or two Gigabit Ethernet uplinks for connecting to high-speed backbones or other switches.

But they still function primarily as 10/100 Mbps-switches. The units in this guide serve mainly as 1-Gbps Gigabit Ethernet switches, although some are actually multifunctional switches with 10/100-Mbps Ethernet or even ATM modules.

Within the seven-layer Open Systems Interconnection network model, Gigabit Ethernet switches have established themselves at Layer 2 but are a new development at Layer 3.

Because they bring 1-Gbps speeds to the network, Layer 2 Gigabit Ethernet switches have given network managers a powerful incentive to rethink their old networking paradigms. As bandwidth-intensive multimedia, video, and Internet and intranet applications have spread across the enterprise, users have begun the transition from 10/100-Mbps Ethernet to Gigabit Ethernet, especially at the enterprise backbone level.

The main benefit of Layer 2 Gigabit Ethernet switches is raw speed, measured not only in megabits/sec but also in the numbers of packets, about 1.4 million per second, they can transmit.

In accordance with the OSI model, Layer 2 switches operate at the second, or data-link, layer. Their main task is to check incoming traffic, keep track of the physical addresses of all stations attached to their ports and forward traffic to the specific addresses according to the forwarding tables they have built. Layer 2 switches are fast because they don't have to examine individual data packets, just pass them on. Thus, they can deliver data at wire speeds, or up to the limits of the physical connections themselves.

But although Layer 2 switches are fast, they cannot handle the traffic bottlenecks caused by aging routers spread across the network.

Conventional software routers must examine individual data packets before identifying their destinations and sending them on their way. The problem is that they can only handle several hundred thousand frames of data per second.

This is far too slow for today's high-speed bandwidth requirements, as more servers, workstations and applications are added to the enterprise.

Layer 3 switches, also called routing or IP switches, perform both switching and routing functions simultaneously. They work at the third, or network, layer of the OSI mode that contains the IP address.

Layer 3 switches make use of hardware-based, app-specific integrated circuits and specialized shared-memory or cross-bar switching fabrics. This, along with their fast CPUs and other components, accounts for their wire-speed routing capability. Layer 3 switches can be used as cutting-edge replacements for legacy network routers.

Unhindered network

Another benefit of Layer 3 is an assured quality of service that Layer 2 switching doesn't provide alone. The newest Layer 3 switches provide simultaneous filtering for layers 2, 3, 4 and above that helps guarantee your mission-critical data will get where it has to go'all without slowing down the network. In the future, look for more Layer 4, or traffic-control, capability.

Layer 3 Gigabit Ethernet switches represent a big network breakthrough; consequently there isn't a large selection of them available yet.

Mainline switch manufacturers such as 3Com Corp., Cabletron Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. and Nortel Networks Corp. are busy adding Gigabit Ethernet capability with Layer 3 and 4 management modules to their Layer 2 switches.

Industry newcomers might have a marketing edge because they began life as Gigabit Ethernet manufacturers.

J.B. Miles, of Pahoa, Hawaii, writes about communications and computers.





















Company Product Base Gigabit port configuration Other interfaces Configuration Module dimensions in inches except as noted Features Price
Alcatel/Packet Engines
Spokane, Wash.
PowerRail 2200 Gigabit port configuration 10 1000Base-SX 10/100, FDDI, ATM, Sonet modules Rackmount chassis 17.75 by 22.75 by 20 Simultaneous Layer 2, 3, 4 operation, policy-based VLAN support, TrackView network management support, RMON support for four groups, Web-based management, Command Line Interface (CLI) support for Telnet, support for HP OpenView $9,995 to $20,990
PowerRail 5200 25 1000Base-SX 10/100, FDDI, ATM, Sonet modules Rackmount chassis 17.75 by 31.5 by 22.5 Same, with larger capacity $21,990 to $36,990
Allied Telesyn International Corp.
Sunnyvale, Calif.
AT-9108 eight 1000 Base-SX or six 1000 Base-SX and two 1000Base-LX Gigabit Ethernet only Standalone or rackmount chassis 17.42 by 17.32 by 3.5 Standards-based router compatibility and VLAN support; policy-based quality of service (QoS) including bandwidth control and queue prioritization; fault-tolerant features including multiple load-sharing trunks and multiple spanning tree domains; HTML, SNMP, RMON, and local and remote CLI Telnet management $12,062 to $17,067
Alteon WebSystems Inc.
San Jose, Calif.
A708 Series eight 1000Base-SX 10/100 ports Rackmount chassis 17 by 14 by 10.5 Layer 4 traffic control, plug-in modules for Fast Ethernet or 10/100Mbps Ethernet support, optional jumbo Ethernet frame support, standards-based VLAN support, multilevel fault tolerance, support for all Web OS services, RMON support for four groups, integration with HP OpenView and NT management schemes $9,995
A714 Series 14 1000Base-SX 10/100 ports Rackmount chassis 17 by 14 by 15.75 Same $14,995
A180 Series nine 1000Base-SX 10/100 ports Standalone or rackmount chassis 17 by 18 by 3.47 Autoselection of 10/100/1000 ports $14,995
Anritsu Co.
Richardson, Texas
Multiflow 5128 16 1000Base-SX 10/100 ports, optional ATM, Sonet modules Rackmount chassis 439 mm by 480 mm by 747 mm Simultaneous Layer 2, 3, 4 operation; redundant power supplies and fans; four internal priority levels for data, voice, multimedia traffic, trunking and link aggregation; OC-48 Sonet interface; support for 1000Base-T copper media; SNMP and RMON support $29,000 and up
Multiflow 5064 eight 1000Base-SX Same Rackmount chassis 439 mm by 480 mm by 607 mm Same $23,000 and up
Cabletron Systems Inc.
Rochester, N.H.
SmartSwitch Router 8000 14 1000Base-LX or 1000Base-FX Selectable 10/100 ports Rackmount chassis 8.75 by 17.25 by 12.25 Simultaneous Layer 2, 3, 4 operation, wire-speed Layer 4 application flow switching, wire-speed application level QoS, full MON/RMON2 management on every port, multicast routing; hot-swappable interface modules $9,995 and up
SmartSwitch Router 8600 30 1000Base-LX or 1000Base-FX 10/100 ports Rackmount chassis 19.25 by 17.25 by 12.25 Same $9,995 and up
SmartSwitch Router 2100 eight 1000Base-SX Gigabit Ethernet only Rackmount chassis 2.8 by 17 by 18.5 Same; designed mainly for workgroup and server farm load-balancing $14,995
Extreme Networks Inc.
Santa Clara, Calif.
Summit1 six 1000Base-SX and two 1000Base-LX Gigabit Ethernet only Rackmount chassis 3.5 by 17.32 by 17.42 Policy-based QoS with bandwidth management, prioritization and congestion control; multicast control; VLAN switching; multiple load-trunks and spanning trees; HTML, SNMP, RMON, and local and remote CLI Telnet management; redundant power supply $11,995 to $19,995
Summit4 six 1000Base-SX or 1000Base-LX 10/100 ports Rackmount chassis 3.5 by 17.32 by 17.42 Same, with 10/100 Ethernet connectivity $15,995 to $29,995
Black Diamond 6800 48 1000Base-X 10/100 ports Rackmount chassis 3.5 by 17.32 by 17.42 Same; for very high-capacity networks $120,000
Foundry Networks Inc.
Sunnyvale, Calif.
TurboIron/8 eight 1000Base-SX, eight 1000Base-LX, six 1000Base-SX and two 1000Base-LX, or four 1000Base-SX and four 1000Base-LX Gigabit Ethernet only Standalone or rackmount chassis 2.75 by 17.5 by 16.75 Simultaneous Layer 2, 3, 4 operation; policy-based QoS and VLAN switching; address locking and Layer 3 filtering for security; Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol; HTMP, SNMP, RMON, and local and remote CLI Telnet management $9,995
BigIron 4000 32 1000Base-SX, 1000Base-LX or 1000Base-LH ATM, Fast Ethernet, Sonet modules Rackmount chassis 8.75 by 17.5 by 15 Same; designed for high-end enterprises and internet service providers $16,000 and up
BigIron 8000 64 1000Base-SX, 1000Base-LX or 1000Base-LH Same Rackmount chassis 20.75 by 17.5 by 15.25 Same $20,000 and up
FastIron II GC 24 1000Base-T 10/100 ports Rackmount chassis 2.75 by 17.5 by 16.75 Same, with copper-based 1000Base-T wiring support $21,995
Hewlett-Packard Co.
Palo Alto, Calif.
ProCurve 6308M-SX eight 1000Base-SX 10/100 ports Stackable 17.5 by 16.8 by 2.6 Simultaneous Layer 2, 3, 4 operation, policy-based VLAN support, IP multicast routing, hardware-based Access Control list, filter-based security, Web interface for switch configuring, free software update downloads $19,249
IBM Corp.
Armonk, N.Y.
8274 Nways LAN RouteSwitch Model W53 16 1000Base-SX 10/100, ATM, Token-Ring modules Rackmount chassis 17.5 by 18 by 10.7 Redundant, hot-swappable power supplies, management processors and cooling fans; policy-based VLAN support; HTML, SNMP, RMON and IBM Nways RouteSwitch Network Manager $9,400 and up
Intel Corp.
Santa Clara, Calif.
Express GB Series Switch 32 1000Base-SX 10/100 modules Rackmount chassis 19 by 3 by 8 Load-sharing power supplies, hot-swappable components, built-in Web server, Intel Device View software, Tivoli NetView and HP OpenView enterprise-level management plug-ins, RMON group 1 to 3 to 9 support $11,995
Lucent Technologies Inc.
Murray Hill, N.J.
Cajun P550 24 1000Base-SX, 1000Base-CX or 1000Base-X1 10/100 modules Rackmount chassis 17.5 by 18 by 10.7 Fault-tolerant design, advanced QoS/CoS, hot-swappable power supplies and fans, year 2000-ready $9,950 and up
Nortel Networks Corp.
Brampton, Ontario
Accelar 1150 four 1000Base-SX or 1000Base-LX 10/100 modules Standalone 3.5 by 17.5 by 16 Simultaneous Layer 2, 3, 4 operation, policy-based VLAN support, optional fail-safe CPU module, multilink trunking, advanced IPX routing, IP multicast routing, hot-swappable modules $9,000 and up
Accelar 1200 eight 1000Base-SX or 1000Base-LX 10/100 modules Rackmount chassis 10.5 by 17.5 by 16 Same, with larger capacity $50,000
ODS Networks Inc.
Richardson, Texas
LANBlazer 7007-L3 12 1000Base-SX 10/100 modules Rackmount chassis 10.5 by 17.5 by 18 Fault-tolerant fans, power supply and links; fault-tolerant CPU; RMON support for seven groups; Web-based management; mix-and-match Layer 2 and Layer 3 modules $20,350
3Com Corp.
Santa Clara, Calif.
SuperStack II Switch 9000 SX eight 1000Base-SX 10/100 modules Stackable 3.5 by 17.25 by 17.5 Multicast filtering, IEEE 802.3x flow control support; Roving Analysis Port for network analyzer, RMON support for four groups, standards-based VLAN support, trunking (multiple parallel links), full duplex on all ports $14,995


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