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April 15, 1994


By CBR Staff Writer

High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire-based Madge Networks Ltd has outlined its plans for Token Ring/Asynchronous Transfer Mode integration. A key part of this will be its Token Ring Switching technology, says the company, first news of which was revealed last August, although the company denies being in joint development with SynOptics Communications Inc, as was reported then. According to Madge, the Token Ring switching will be ‘true switching’ and not multi-port bridging, with the switching based on source routing. One key development will be new protocol handling silicon – the RingRunner. Conventional chips are not suitable for switching systems, says Madge, but the RingRunner provides the high throughput and low latency required; RingRunner converts the Token Ring bit stream on the wire to a byte stream, enabling it to handle wire speed at any packet size with a latency of only a few bytes, and is said to support source routing and transparent switching. Texas Instruments Inc will manufacture and market the Madge-developed chip, with Madge licensing associated software, such as portable Token Ring MAC processing software, which has been developed in-house by Madge by building on its experience in designing the Fastmac Plus. Token Rings – and/or Full Duplex Token Rings when the standard is ratified – will link into the Token Ring switch, which will be interconnected via a high-speed interface. This will either be source-routed FDDI or Asynchronous Mode. In the latter case, Token Ring will be switched to Asynchronous Mode using local network emulation standards; the ATM Forum is currently working on these and Madge and IBM Corp are the only two vendors with Token Ring support proposals. The final part of the strategy is to develop Asynchronous Mode adaptor boards for clients and servers; Madge says that its initial focus will be on server boards running at 155Mbps, with both EISA and Peripheral Component Interconnect variants. The boards will support both Ethernet and Token Ring emulation, and offer driver support for NetWare, NT and OS/2. Madge will preview Token Ring emulation on Asynchronous Mode at InterOp, Las Vegas next month, where it will demonstrate its interoperability with Fore Systems Inc, with which it has a technical co-operation agreement. Field trials of Asynchronous Mode adaptor boards will begin in the fourth quarter, with those of its Token Ring switch following in the first quarter of 1995.

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