New network processors aid computing centers

CHICAGO ' A new generation of network processors promise improved performance by helping high-speed data centers communicate with each other across wide area networks. Bay Microsystems is announcing at the NXTcomm telecom tradeshow this week a new version of its ABEx (Agile Bandwidth Exchange) edge aggregation platform based on its latest 40-Gbps processor.

Ten-gigabit speeds already are well-established in government networks, said Charles Gershman, president and CEO at Bay Microsystems. 'They are actively looking to move to 40-gigabit data rates.'

ABEx helps those high-speed networks communicate efficiently with each other, minimizing wide-area network latency. It tunnels protocols across the WAN rather than terminating and converting them at the network edge.

'You get much more efficient utilization of the WAN links between your islands,' Gershman said. 'You can't eliminate the speed of light, but the goal is that the only latency they will see is the speed of light.'

The new platform will use Bay Microsystems' Chesapeake 40G processor, which it made available in sample quantities in March. The processor is optimized for handling converged voice, video and data traffic on already overburdened networks. The growing demand for video, with its high-bandwidth requirements and sensitivity to latency, is a major driver for this technology, and the intelligence community is one of the prime markets.

'The federal government has been an early adopter for the technology,' because it has been a pioneer in cluster computing, Gershman said. Power users needed to improve communications between high-performance clusters. 'They were one of the early identifiers of the problem.'

In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture capital arm and technology incubator, is an investor in Bay Microsystems and government customers worked closely in development of network processors and traffic managers, using early products in test beds. The processors are making their way into Bay Microsystems tools such as ABEx and to manufacturers of carrier equipment.

'The key is to make the federal government customer happy while being able to go to the commercial market,' Gershman said.

Translating application protocols at the network edge can degrade performance and increase the complexity of network management. 'Any time two protocols talk to each other, there is a mismatch and inefficiency,' Gershman said.

The new ABEx aggregation platform helps eliminate unneeded complexity by maintaining a single protocol. 'It takes some spoofing work and a lot of quality of service,' Gershman said.

Previous ABEx models operate at 10G speeds. The company has quadrupled performance with the new processors, reducing a chipset to a single chip with greater video awareness. The new tools are expected to be available for trial by the end of the year.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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