Foundry takes Gigabit Ethernet to next level

A new switch promises Gigabit Ethernet over standard copper wires, instead of expensive fibre.

Foundry Networks will race up the LAN price/performance curve next week when it introduces a new suite of Gigabit Ethernet switches that work with standard Category 5 copper wire.

The new FastIron II switches, which will cost about $650 (£403) per port for any copper Gigabit configuration, are compliant with the recently completed IEEE 802.3ab standard for Gigabit Ethernet over Category 5 twisted-pair. Such support allows network operators to boost network performance without having to string more expensive fibre-optic cabling. In fact, the promise of the Gigabit Ethernet-over-copper standard is in not having to rewire at all.

"Many places already have the wiring in place," said Foundry user David Parter, associate director of the computer systems laboratory at the University of Wisconsin. "Putting fibre through conduit is extremely expensive. A 50-foot [fibre] jumper that's terminated is $50. For RJ-45 [twisted-pair], it's less than $25."

The line includes what Foundry officials claim is the highest port density copper-based switch available, with 64 ports and the ability to forward up to 96 million packets per second. The FastIron II Plus GC is a modular eight-slot switch that supports 16G-bps throughput per module. Foundry also added a four-slot version of the switch that can forward up to 47 million packets per second. The FastIron II GC provides two configuration options: a 24-port 1000BaseT option and a 16-port 1000BaseT plus 24-port 10/100BaseTX option. Both the four- and eight-slot models are Layer 2 switches that are software-upgradable to provide Layer 3 switching for $14,995. They are due in October.

Foundry officials will target the new copper-based Gigabit switches at server farms and high-performance workgroups, according to Marshall Eisenberg, director of product marketing. "Server farms are where you have the most aggregation of traffic flow. To take advantage of the next performance leap without having to rewire, you just change out the NIC in the PC and upgrade a blade in the chassis or add a new switch," Eisenberg said.

Foundry also added a new eight-port 100BaseT module to its existing BigIron switches for server farms of data centres, as well as a one- and two-port copper Gigabit Ethernet uplink module for the FastIron, NetIron and ServerIron stackables.

Foundry rounded out its new line of LAN switches with a new wiring closet switch capable of supporting 144 10/100BaseTX ports plus two, four or eight Gigabit Ethernet ports. The FastIron II Plus can support a mix of media types in its open slot. It is available now and ranges in price from $44,995 to $56,995, depending on the number of fibre-based Gigabit Ethernet ports.

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