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ZyXEL and Company Further the Affordable GbE Cause

By Forrest Stroud

09.24.2003.  The onslaught of inexpensive Gigabit Ethernet switches continues with this week's launch of the Dimension Gigabit SOHO series of switches from ZyXEL as well as new switch releases from Broadcom and Vitesse.

Following in the footsteps of Linksys, NETGEAR, SMC, Marvell, and similar networking vendors, the three companies are targeting small office/home office (SOHO) users and small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with their new switches.

With speeds up to ten times faster than standard 10/100 Mbps Ethernet products, Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) switches are gaining support as ideal solutions for high traffic business networks as well as in home office environments with extensive gaming and large data and multimedia transfer needs.

GbE switches have trickled down from large enterprise applications, with GbE-enabled laptops, PCs, and network interface cards (NICs) driving the cost of GbE to all-time lows. This, in turn, has accelerated the demand for higher bandwidth GbE switch performance across all segments of the market, further increasing volumes and reducing cost. According to IDC's Worldwide Ethernet Semiconductor Forecast (2002 through 2007) report published in March, GbE switch silicon revenues are expected to grow from $348 million in 2002 to $1.063 billion in 2007, representing a 25% CAGR.

Additionally, market research firm iSuppli forecasts that shipments of Gigabit Ethernet ports in switches and hubs will exceed those for Fast Ethernet ports in 2005, coming in at 70 million vs. nearly 62 million for Fast Ethernet. iSuppli reports the biggest driver for the rapid growth in Gigabit Ethernet is the rapid decline in prices for Gigabit Ethernet interfaces in the PC, which in turn is fueling a demand for higher bandwidth interconnectivity in the LAN and at the edge of the WAN.

ZyXEL Dimension GS Series Combines Speed and Affordability

ZyXEL's Dimension GS series packages a robust set of features in a slim, plug-and-play design. The switches offer IEEE 802.3x standard-based flow control for preventing pending traffic congestion by instructing the attached devices to halt transmission. When the switch detects that the buffer for each port is nearly full, it requests the attached devices to wait until they can accept new data.

Additional features include auto-sensing 10/100/1000 Mbps ports and auto-MDI/MDI-X for automatically adjusting the transmit/receive pins of a port based on the signal detected on the wire from the attached device, making crossover cables obsolete.

"ZyXEL is able to leverage our history of robust, enterprise-quality technology with ease-of-use and dependable features to deliver a low-cost, feature-rich broadband access and network management solution for any size network, any size budget," says Munira Brooks, vice president sales, marketing and strategic account development at ZyXEL.

The Dimension GS series of switches is available now and includes:

  • GS-105 5-Port 10/100/1000 Switch - $149 MSRP
  • GS-108 8-Port 10/100/1000 Switch - $209 MSRP
  • GS-1008 8-Port 10/100/1000 Rack Mountable Switch - $359 MSRP
  • GS-1016 16-Port 10/100/1000 Rack Mountable Switch - $899 MSRP

Broadcom Launches Fifth Generation Family of GbE Switches

Earlier this week, Irvine, Calif.-based Broadcom Corporation announced the launch of its ROBO-HS (Remote Office/Branch Office-High Speed) family of highly integrated Gigabit Ethernet switches, which represents the firm's fifth generation of GbE switch technology. Designed specifically for the small and medium-sized business market, the ROBO-HS series enables 4- to 24-port GbE switches to be manufactured as single-chip solutions and 48-port GbE switches to be manufactured as multi-chip solutions.

The company claims several innovative industry firsts, including integrating a GbE copper physical layer transceiver (PHY) onto 8-port, 5-port and 4-port switch devices; providing market-leading support of PCI management in SMB-class 24-port and 16-port GbE switches; and leveraging a single, field-proven software base to work across the complete ROBOswitch portfolio.

"Broadcom has established itself as the leader in Gigabit Ethernet switching, and now nearly every major networking equipment manufacturer uses at least one of our Gigabit Ethernet switches for their mainstream, high-density desktop switches," states Martyn Humphries, Senior Director of Broadcom's Enterprise Networking Business Unit.

"Our new ROBO-HS products build upon this success and allow our customers to leverage their previous R&D investment in Broadcom switch products as they push Gigabit Ethernet into the very high volume market of small-to-medium sized businesses," continues Humphries.

Samples of Broadcom's new ROBO-HS product family are currently available to early access partners with general sampling to customers occurring in October 2003.

Vitesse Wraps Up Its GbE Layer 2+ Family

And in related news, Camarillo, Calif.-based Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. has completed its Layer 2+ Gigabit Switch Family with the introduction of new 8- and 12-port GbE switches. The family of switches is being used to convert existing 8-, 12-, 16- and 24-port 10/100 Mbps Local Area Networking (LAN) switch platforms to Gigabit speeds (1000 Mbps) for faster and more efficient delivery of information to small and medium-sized businesses and enterprise desktops.

"Vitesse's complete Layer 2+ Gigabit Ethernet Switch portfolio is in production and provides customers real solutions today," says Jesper Knudsen, marketing director of Vitesse's SMB Gigabit Ethernet Switch ICs. "With our switches priced comparably to Fast Ethernet, and the immediate need for optimized network performance, network administrators are relying on Vitesse Gigabit solutions to increase productivity, enhance reliability, and ensure longevity of their networks."

The 8-port "Elstree" and 12-port "Standsted" switches include a complete web-managed reference system solution targeted at the SMB and enterprise switch market. The reference platform is cost optimized with only four layers of PC board. Web-Lite management is enabled at a significantly lower cost than competing solutions by means of an on-chip Intel compatible 8051 controller.

Network features in the two switches include jumbo frame support, full duplex flow control (802.3x), link aggregation (802.3ad), port-based access control (802.1X), spanning tree protocol (802.1D), rapid and multiple spanning tree support (802.1w and 802.1s), Virtual Bridged LAN support (802.1Q), programmable Layer 2 - 4 classifier for QoS, four Classes of Services (CoS), bandwidth policing and shaping, and broadcast and multicast storm control.

The switches are available now, with volume pricing unit cost of $24 for Elstree and $36 for Stansted.

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