Foundry Looks To Offer Cheap Bandwidth

At the NetWorld+Interop 2001 show this week in Atlanta, Foundry Networks Inc. announced Metro Ethernet products designed to enable service providers to connect points of points of presence (POP) with high-density Fast Ethernet over fibre, and implement MPLS-based Layer 2 VPN services for business customers.

Foundry’s 24-port 100Base-FX module could be used by a metro service provider as an inexpensive alternative to SONET or ATM for connecting POPs with multiple 100Mbps connections at distances of up to 40 kilometres, the company says. Foundry is offering three 24-port Fast-Ethernet-over-fibre modules for its BigIron line of Ethernet switches, used in the backbones of both metro service providers and large enterprises.

The modules, providing “short, medium and long” connectivity for 10/100Mbps links, come in a two-kilometre, multi-mode fibre version, as well as modules that reach to 12 and 40 kilometres over single-mode fibre.

A new software upgrade for Foundry’s Network Processor Architecture (NPA) modules on its BigIron Ethernet switches and NetIron Internet backbone routers will allow service providers to offer Layer 2 VPN services using Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), the firm says. Foundry’s upgrade is based on re-programmable chips called field programmable gate arrays that map Layer 2 virtual LAN (VLAN) information to an MPLS tag added by a label edge router at a customer’s site – such as a BigIron switch.

The traffic would be sent to label switch routers in a service provider’s network, such as a NetIron router. To an end user, the service appears as a Layer 2 Ethernet port coming into a building, Foundry says.

The technology is based on an emerging IETF standard for MPLS-based Layer 2 VPNs called Draft Martini. Foundry says this method removes the complexity of Layer 3 packet routing from the customer.

For security, nodes in the public, MPLS-enabled network would forward traffic based only on MPLS information instead of IP addresses, creating a VPN-like tunnel.

While many metro area network equipment vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc., Foundry and Riverstone Networks Inc. are promoting MPLS as a way for carriers to create secure VPN and transparent LAN services, some industry observers have doubts. Internet experts say that MPLS-based VPNs – especially VPNs built on Layer 3 technology – may do more harm than good in public networks by introducing administration headaches and security holes.

Foundry’s two-, 12- and 40-kilometre Fast Ethernet modules will be available for US$10,000, US$20,000 and US$24,000, respectively. All modules will be available in October. Foundry’s MPLS upgrade for its NPA modules will also be available in October as a free upgrade to Foundry customers with installed NPA modules.