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  1. Technology
November 18, 1993


By CBR Staff Writer

The dominant theme at the InterOp show in Paris was Asynchronous Transfer Mode. The announcements included wide-area demonstrations by European carriers and local area network-to-backbone switch products from AT&T Co’s NCR Corp. Olivier Choron, telecommunications analyst for Dataquest Europe in Denham, said he felt InterOp was a more realistic show because it focused more on the backbone level of Asynchronous Transfer technology. We now have three subdivisions in ATM technology. You have Asynchronous Transfer from the telcos, Asynchronous Transfer on the backbone, from companies like Stratacom, Alcatel, and Asynchronous Transfer on the local area network. From the telcos, that is still a couple of years away and on local area networks, Asynchronous Transfer is too expensive, as much as UKP1,500 per port, so FDDI and so forth is really where the local area network market is, he explained. Eight months ago, people were talking about Asynchronous Transfer, but there were no products. Now the products are here and price will be key.


France Telecom and Deutsche Bundespost Telekom, who are in the initial phases of a Europe-wide experimentation on the Asynchronous Transfer Mode standard, demonstrated wide-area Asynchronous Transfer – successfully and unsuccessfully. France Telecom showed what it called the first transatlantic Asynchronous Transfer link to its offices in New York. The two applications demonstrated were videoconferencing, and the joint editing of a document across the link. France Telecom says it will begin marketing two Asynchronous Transfer-based services in the first half of next year: Transrel – which supports Switched Multi-megabit Data Services/Connectionless Broadband Data Service equipment for the interconnection of Ethernet, Token Ring and FDDI local area networks at speeds above 2Mbps – and Virtual Path Asynchronous Transfer, which is an extension of its Transfix service for users requiring higher speeds than Transfix offers, for such applications as voice links and video connections. Transrel, which will be marketed by France Telecom subsidiary Transpac SA, is designed for companies wanting usage-based billing. As a result, said Jean-Jacques Damlamian, sales director for France Telecom, the Transrel service should cost customers between 20% and 30% less than the company’s existing special connections service. Three service modes will be available for Virtual Path/Asynchronous Transfer – permanent links, reserved bandwidth (two hours a day, for example) or bandwidth on demand. France Telecom also demonstrated a 34Mbps link to a Paris Asynchronous Transfer node, which is linked via the BETEL network to the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland. The BETEL project – Broadband Exchange over Trans-European Links, entered its trial phase in September with the interconnection of the Centre for European Research into Nucleonics in Geneva, the Institut National de Physique Nucleaire et de Physique des Particules in Lyon, Institut Eurecom in Sophia Antipolis and Lausanne. The network enables users to share supercomputer time to run scientific computing tasks and videoconferencing for distance learning. The system comprises 34Mbps fibre-optic circuits deployed by France Telecom and Telecom PTT Switzerland. The circuits are connected to an Alcatel 1000 AX virtual circuit cross-connect switch in Lyon.

Marsha Johnston finds that real-world Asynchronous Transfer applications were the order of the day at the InterOp show in Paris the other day.

The different user sites are equipped with FDDI local area networks, which are linked to the Asynchronous Transfer Mode system via Cisco Systems Inc AGS+/4 and 7000 routers. The Deutsche Bundespost Telekom demonstrated its Asynchronous Transfer-based Datex-M service on a long-distance co-operative work application between the show floor and the University of Stuttgart. A 34Mbps local area network at InterOp was connected over a 2Mbps link to another 34Mbps local area network in Stuttgart. The transmission comprised a document that wa

s to be jointly edited, and a live video link with a student in Stuttgart. However, the student seemed to have difficulty hearing the show floor participants and the document was routed incorrectly to another computer that was not equipped with the video. The Bundespost Telekom staff was apologetic, saying that the system had not been configured properly at the other end. The system is great when it works, quipped the student. NCR presented the schedule for rolling out its UniverCell family of Asynchronous Transfer switches, which are based on the company’s own Phoenix processor, and include a plug-in board for its modular local area network hub, workgroup, departmental and backbone Asynchronous Transfer switches. The products are also to be distributed by Cisco. NCR is not concerned about banking its Asynchronous Transfer future on the Phoenix technology at a time when the standard is still being defined, said Phillip Thomas, director, architecture and strategic product line planning for networking hardware business unit of NCR. The Phoenix chip is the result of 20 years of high-speed cellular switching technology and it will handle a cell size of between 10 and 80 bits. Right now, we’re using 53 bits. It’s a flexible, broadband chip, not just an Asynchronous Transfer Mode device. We’re not nervous at all. The chip is out there on the floor, and we can modify the signalling as the standard changes, he said. The company demonstrated the SmartHUB XE Asynchronous Transfer switch, which is a four by four implementation (four inputs and four outputs, providing four full-duplex ports) of the Phoenix chip. The board is accompanied by a non-blocking Ethernet-to-Asynchronous Transfer bridging module and can provide up to 800Mbps aggregate throughput, the company says. With the four-port switch, you don’t need a core Asynchronous Transfer switch in each local area network hub, and that reduces the cost of entry, Thomas said. NCR says the initial release of the switch module will support the AAL Asynchronous Transfer Adaptation Layer Type 5 service. The Adaptation Layer supports the interface to an Asynchronous Transfer Mode network of both connection-oriented and connectionless data applications found on a local area network.


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Connections between Asynchronous Transfer endpoints will be implemented by permanent virtual circuits, the company said. The workgroup switch combines hub, multiplexer and router capabilities, the company says, while the departmental switch has an aggregate switching capacity of 1.2Gbps and will support Simple Network Management Protocol management systems, hot swappable modules, asynchronous terminals, SNA service, routing and bridging functions and three categories of endpoints servers, other switches and the desktop. Asynchronous Transfer Mode communications will be provided for all three at 155Mbps, with 51Mbps over unshielded twisted pair and 10Mbps to Ethernet endpoints available to the desktop. Thomas said the company would begin shipping the SmartHUB XE module and workgroup switch next summer, with limited shipments of the departmental and backbone switches. He added that NCR would extend two pilot projects from the US and abroad in the first half of 1994 – a technology guarantee program for the SmartHUB XE switch and its UniverCell Professional Services. UniverCell Professional Services provides seminars and network design services aimed at helping customers avoid just moving their network bottlenecks from one place to another.

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