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Optical/IP

Foundry Unleashes Switches

HANNOVER, Germany -- CeBIT 2003 -- Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) announced a series of new products today, geared toward enterprise and wireless networking, here at the CeBIT tradeshow (see Foundry Intros Router, Ethernet Switch).

Part of the company's strategy is to take existing routing technology and move into new vertical markets and geographies. For example, the new products include an IPv6 router that will help it address the wireless market, particularly in Asia. It has also added two new enterprise switches that will help it better address voice over IP and wireless LAN markets.

Here is a look at the new products:

  • The NetIron 4802 is a stackable switch that offers 48 Fast Ethernet ports and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. The key to the new switch is support for IPv6, the latest version of Internet Protocol (IP) that greatly increases the available address space, which is required for the wireless market where devices are proliferating. Like other products in the Foundry portfolio it uses the company’s highest performing silicon, the JetCore ASICs.

  • The FastIron Edge 2402 POE and 4802 POE are LAN switches that use a pre-standard version of Power over Ethernet. POE allows a single wire to deliver both communications and power, so that users don't need an electrical outlet near the device, making it ideal for voice-over-IP handsets and switches, wireless access switches, remote video cameras, and other IP devices. The new functionality is based on a standards draft in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) known as 802.3af.

  • Another enterprise switch, the FastIron Edge 12GCF Switch (FES12GCF), allows for both copper and fiber interfaces to be used on the same fixed configuration switch. Customers can simply slot in a small fiber GBIC for fiber connectivity.

So how do Foundry’s new products stack up against the competition? Let’s take a look at the NetIron 4802 first. While IPv6 support is notable, Foundry certainly isn’t the first vendor to offer it on its switches. Several others like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Fujitsu Ltd. (KLS: FUJI.KL), Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), Hitachi Ltd. (NYSE: HIT; Paris: PHA), and NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY) all support some form of IPv6 on their switching products.

Foundry admits that it doesn’t yet support full IPv6 functionality -- it is not yet able to translate IPv4 addresses into IPv6. Instead, it's seen as offering a gradual migration to full IPv6 compatibility.

“Foundry's approach is similar to others in many respects,” says Todd Hanson, an analyst with Gartner/Dataquest. “However, they have clearly stated a commitment for first rolling out IPv6 enhancements pertinent to data link level usage, with a path to IPv6-enhanced switching/routing functions [Layer 3] in a follow-up phase.”

Adam Stein, director of corporate marketing for Foundry, says that more IPv6 functionality is coming.

As for its Power-over-Ethernet capability in the new FastIron Edge switches, Foundry says it goes above and beyond the standard implementation by supporting 480 Watts of power on 24-port devices. Cisco currently supports a proprietary implementation, which means that Cisco switches can only be used with Cisco handsets. Foundry claims that with its standard implementation it will be able to interoperate with gear from a variety of vendors.

Foundry’s FastIron Edge 12GCF Switch (FES12GCF) also sticks out as a notable product. Many vendors offer a mix of fiber and copper on larger chassis-based switches, but few if any, offer it in a fixed configuration. This feature will allow customers the flexibility to use the switch for small Gigabit Ethernet backbones, aggregation, and copper connectivity to the desktop or server.

Foundry has been showing some rare stability on the financial front. It beat revenue targets last quarter and looks to be on track for the current quarter (see Foundry Pumps Up the Market and Foundry's Revenue: Rising Again?).

Light Reading's Founding Editor, Peter Heywood, will be hosting a panel discussion at CeBIT on Thursday, March 13: CeBIT Debate: ATM Versus Ethernet.

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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