Foundry sees power shift for simpler corporate VoIP

Foundry next month is expected to announce new corporate Ethernet gear for business networks, with a focus on VoIP and Power over Ethernet.

The Foundry FastIron SX 800 and 1600 switches are chassis-based products aimed at simplifying VoIP rollouts, with redundant PoE capabilities and some automatic configuration features for IP phones.

The eight-slot FastIron SX 800 will support up to 192 PoE ports, while the 16-slot SX 1600 boxes will power up to 384 10/100/1000Mbps PoE Ethernet ports. Both switches support Class 3 — 15.4-watt — PoE, more than enough to power most IP phones and wireless LAN access points, according to the vendor.

The FastIron SX 800 chassis also will hold up to 36 10G Ethernet ports; SX 800 will hold 20 10Gbps ports (24-port 10/100/1000 modules and two-port 10G Ethernet blades are used in the product). Fibre-based port modules also will be available for the switch, with 100/1000 speeds supported.

For VoIP, the switches will support redundant PoE power supplies and include a feature for detecting if a connected device can accept PoE current. (This eliminates the risk of accidentally plugging non-PoE devices into a powered port and damaging the equipment.)

The FastIron SX switches also will detect if an IP phone is connected to a switch port. If an IP phone is detected, the connection is configured into a separate virtual LAN segment, which aggregates VoIP traffic and protects the IP telephony calls from interruptions because of network congestion, Foundry says.

The FastIron SX switches will support the Cisco Discovery Protocol (supported by Cisco IP phones) and 802.1X IP phone authentication (supported in Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, Shortel and Nortel phones). Later this year, Foundry will introduce the emerging Link Layer Discovery Protocol-Media Endpoint Discovery standard for discovering, configuring and powering IP phones.

A key change in the FastIron SX architecture is the separate power supplies for the switch system power and the PoE modules, whereas past Foundry switches and competitive products have had shared system/PoE power supplies.

“As you add more PoE ports, you don’t affect system power,” says Bob Schiff, director of Foundry’s enterprise business unit. “You just need more PoE modules. And should there be PoE failure, you don’t lose system power.”

The new FastIron SX switches compete with Cisco’s Catalyst 4500 and 6500 switches, as well as small and large chassis versions of Extreme’s BlackDiamond 10K and Nortel’s Enterprise Routing Switch 8300 and 8600. Foundry says it expects to formally launch the FastIron SX and provide pricing information next month.

Meanwhile, another Foundry product made its debut at the Globalcomm 2006 show earlier this month. The NetIron M2404 device is meant to sit in a multi-tenant building, where it terminates carrier Ethernet links and delivers up to 100Mbps of Ethernet bandwidth.

The device includes 24 copper 10/100 ports and four optional fibre or copper Gigabit Ethernet ports for uplinks to a metropolitan Ethernet router at the carrier edge.

The M2404 supports MPLS and Layer 2 VPN service capabilities, and can be configured in a redundant setup with a second M2404, allowing for sub-50-millisec failover of a connection for MPLS links. The M2404 will be available in August for US$9,500.

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