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Riverstone Flows Toward Gigabit Ethernet

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
6/1/2000

Riverstone Networks http://www.riverstonenet.com today announced the general availability of the RS 32000 switch router, its first new product shipping since the company was spun out of Cabletron Systems http://www.cabletron.com (NYSE: CS) back in February.

Positioned at the edge of a service provider network, the RS 32000’s big claim to fame is that it helps carriers migrate to Gigabit Ethernet in the metropolitan network.

How does it do that? By incorporating a wide range of interfaces so that carriers can use the RS 32000 with their current backbone technologies, such as Sonet and ATM, and move to Gigabit Ethernet when the time is ripe.

Leading Gigabit Ethernet vendors such as Extreme Networks Inc. http://www.extremenetworks.com (NASDAQ: EXTR) and Foundry Networks Inc. http://www.foundrynet.com (NASDAQ: FDRY) don’t provide an equivalent migration path. In order to use their gear, carriers would be forced to lay new fiber and possibly junk existing equipment – and many of them aren’t ready to do that right now.

Riverstone not only offers a wide range of interfaces. It also packs a lot of them into a small space. Specifically, it can deliver 240 Gigabit Ethernet ports, 60 OC-48 Packet-Over-SONET ports, 240 T1/E1 or 120 T3/E3 Ethernet ports in a seven-foot rack.

Now for the catch: The RS 32000 switching fabric only handles 120 Gigabits per second of capacity. A fully loaded chassis working at full capacity would need at least twice that amount to sustain a non-blocking architecture.

"If you load up all 240 ports, yes it will come off line rate," says Andrew Feldman, VP of marketing and corporate communications for Riverstone. "But so will an Extreme or Foundry box the minute you turn security features or other high level features on."

So far, Riverstone has been well received in the market. MCI Worldcom http://www.wcom.com (NASDAQ: WCOM), Telefonica http://www.telefonica.es, and Bell Atlantic http://www.bellatlantic.com (NYSE:BEL) are all testing the RS 32000 while Vitts Networks http://www.vitts.com, a provider based in Manchester, NH is using the switch router in production.

Reaction in the form of Cabletron's stock price was muted, however. On a day when many networking vendors tacked 10 percent or more on to their value, Cabletron rose only a quarter of a point, or one percent, to close at $23.13.

by Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading

http://www.lightreading.com

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