Optical/IP Networks

Lantern Lights Path to Gig Ethernet

Want the benefits of Sonet and ATM without the high cost associated with either technology? Lantern Communications says its Ethernet Packet Ring Switch provides the protection offered by Sonet and the quality of service (QOS) guarantees offered by ATM. And because it uses Ethernet as the transport, costs are cut considerably, says the vendor.

“We haven’t thrown out the baby with the bathwater here,” says Bob Schiff, marketing director for Lantern. “We have taken what’s good about other technologies and melded them together.”

If it all sounds too good to be true, that's because it may be, analysts say. “It’s easy to say you can do all sorts of stuff when you don’t plan to have a product out for over six months,” says Jennifer Pigg, executive VP for The Yankee Group. “How it looks on paper and how it will operate in real life are two different things. There is nothing that says any of this will work when it’s deployed in a real network.”

The vendor is building on an architectural concept that is currently being discussed by The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE)called Resilient Packet Ring. Much like Sonet, a packet ring will provide protection and restoration to the network within 50 milliseconds, says the vendor. And because it is set up in a ring, the network is more deterministic than if it were in a meshed topology, making it easier to control packet latency.

Unlike traditional Ethernet implementations that queue and re-queue traffic at each node in a ring or meshed architecture, causing jitter and latency, Lantern says that its switch handles packets in virtual flows, which limits latency to two milliseconds.

Lantern isn’t the only vendor proposing to use the packet ring topology, either. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) are heading up discussion within the IEEE; and a whole slew of startups, like Atrica Inc. Luminous Networks Inc., Tropic Networks Inc., and World Wide Packets Inc., are proposing to use a similar topology (see Out of Atrica).

The vendor is still developing its product and doesn’t plan beta testing until the spring of 2001, with first customer ship scheduled for early summer 2001.

-- Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading, http://www.lightreading.com

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