Foundry revamps NetIron for the MAN

Foundry Networks Inc. last week updated its NetIron router with the goal of recasting the product as a core metropolitan-area network box instead of a competitor to the likes of Cisco Systems Inc. and Juniper Networks Inc. in the Internet core.

Foundry added software upgrades and new modules to the NetIron that are designed to allow customer traffic on a service provider’s meshed or ring-topology Layer 2 MAN to fail over at sub-second speeds in case of a NetIron router failure. The company said the changes also will help put Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS)-based virtual LAN services on service provider menus, as well as make SONET technology cheaper for providers to deploy.

NetIron’s new transparent LAN software feature allows service providers to set up multi-point MPLS-based connections for providing private LAN services to customers. The technology, called Virtual Private LAN Services (VPLS), is based on an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) draft for secure point-to-multipoint services using MPLS tags to differentiate traffic flows.

Foundry says VPLS is an improvement on currently available MPLS-based VPN technology, or “Draft Martini” technology, which is good at establishing secure point-to-point tunnels between two customer sites, but is not suited for connecting multiple sites in a point-to-multipoint scheme.

Foundry also introduced what the company calls its Metro Ring Protocol (MRP) software, a proprietary iteration of the emerging (but still non-standard) Resilient Ring Protocol (RRP) that Foundry says can provide sub-second fail-over for NetIron switches configured in a ring network.

Cisco and Riverstone Networks Inc. are among the MAN switch vendors offering their own flavours or RPR.

Foundry also upped the redundancy ante by introducing its Virtual Switch Redundancy Protocol (VSRP) software, which it says can provide SONET-like fail-over time for boxes deployed in a meshed Layer 2 network topology.

Both RPR and VSRP can be added to NetIron switches with software upgrades. Foundry says that RPR and VSRP can provide quicker fail-over than the one to 10 seconds it takes the Spanning Tree Protocol to recover downed Layer 2 Ethernet connection.

On the hardware front, Foundry also introduced its MetroLink line of modules for adding high-speed Ethernet and SONET links to a NetIron chassis. The company added 10M/100Mbps copper and 100Mbps fibre modules as well as OC-3, OC-12 and OC-48 blades, which the company says are half the price of competing SONET modules.

Typical OC-48 modules cost between US$40,000 to US$125,000, while Foundry’s new modules come in at around US$12,500, the company claims.

Along with SONET interfaces, Foundry released new 10Gbps Ethernet modules for the NetIron that can be trunked together in fours to provide up to 40Gbps on a virtual pipe. Previous 10G Ethernet blades from Foundry could only be trunked together in pairs, resulting in a 20Gbps pipe.

“Two years ago, we announced we were entering the Internet core market,” says Chandra Kopparapu, director of product marketing for Foundry. “As we got into that, a major factor working against us was that we didn’t have OC-192 [or 10Gbps SONET] modules, which was a key requirement to be successful in the core.”

Foundry’s NetIron barely makes a ripple in the Internet routing market, compared with the splashes made by Juniper and Cisco products. In fact, Foundry has less than 1 per cent Internet router market share, according to Dell’Oro.

Kopparapu says Foundry’s change of plan involved putting more research and development into MAN-oriented technologies, such as 10G Ethernet products, which it was the first to ship in a pre-standard version last July.

The MetroLink SONET modules are available starting at US$15,000, and pricing for the 10G Ethernet blades starts at US$50,000. Software for adding VPLS, MRP and VSRP features is available for US$10,000.