Cisco Rounds Up More RPR Support
“We’ve been supporting Cisco’s efforts in this area since before there was even a standards body,” says Lauren Schlicht, product-line manager for Mindspeed. “They are the leaders in the market. So we felt that was a good enough reason for us to get involved.”
The announcement of the product comes on the first day of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.17 meeting where engineers from various networking and semiconductor companies are working together to hammer out a standard for RPR, a technology that allows data packet protocols like IP to work without sacrificing important resiliency and protection features of the Sonet telecom standard for fiber-optic networks. While the RPR standard is still in its infancy, there are already stark divisions within the working group between those that support Cisco’s implementation, called Dynamic Packet Transport (DPT), and those that do not.
The fact that Mindspeed has chosen to support Cisco’s specification is significant, because it could encourage support for DPT and SRP in the working group from other vendors using the chips to develop their own products.
“If companies are already basing development of their products on Cisco’s technology using these chips, then why would they be willing to change that later on?” says an opponent to Cisco’s version of RPR as the standard, who didn’t want his name used.
Cisco’s dominance in this market has already persuaded a competitor to go along with the its solution, at least for the time being. “We are very supportive of Cisco compliant sources of chips,” says Steve Garrison, director of corporate marketing for Riverstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RSTN). “They are the market leaders. The only place to play in this market is to piggy-back Cisco. And that’s our strategy for the short term.”
While Riverstone doesn’t publicly disclose its component suppliers, Mindspeed notes that the company is already using its OC48 chips to support RPR in its switch/routers.
Mindspeed isn’t the only semiconductor company jumping on the Cisco RPR bandwagon. Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC) (Nasdaq: AMCC) and AuroraNetics, a small Silicon Valley-based startup, also have been developing RPR silicon that complies with the SRP specification, which employs a dual ring topology so that control packets rotate on one ring while data packets rotate on the other, maximizing efficiency on the rings. Cisco actually announced it intends to acquire AuroraNetics during the last 802.17 meeting in Portland, Oregon, creating controversy among participants (see Cisco Acquisition Causes RPR Stink ), and raising eyebrows because it marks a rare case in which Cisco is actually buying a producer of silicon.
Why is there such strong support for Cisco’s implementation? While other companies like Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) and startups like Dynarc and Luminous Networks Inc. are already shipping RPR solutions, Cisco is still the leader in the emerging market, having deployed 13,000 Ethernet ports that use DPT.
Schlicht also points out that Cisco is the only company that has published its full specifications for the technology and made its implementation available to semiconductor developers. Chip companies and system companies publicly supporting Cisco’s implementation say they can’t afford to wait for a standard to come out to start developing products for Ethernet rings.
“There is a group of manufacturers that thinks there is a market window now for RPR,” says Schlicht. “They don’t want to wait two years for the standard. Our supporting SRP doesn’t necessarily mean that Cisco’s version will become the standard, it’s just what is being offered today.”
Even some of Cisco’s opponents in the working group are trying to downplay the impact of this announcement on the outcome of the standard.
”Actually, this announcement doesn’t make any difference to the standard,” says Sharma, director of product management for Luminous. “RPR is targeted for a broader marketplace. Cisco’s version is just a way to hook routers together on a ring. The standard still has a long way to go.”
Mindspeed’s M29955 RingMaker RPU is sampling to alpha customers now and will be available for general sampling in November, with volume shipments likely to begin in the first quarter of 2002.
- Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading