A busy month for local area network silicon culminated last week when Hauppauge, New York-based Standard Microsystems Corp announced that its own Token Ring silicon was ready and that it would be shipping boards that undercut Madge Network Inc’s and San Jose, California-based 3Com Corp’s new offerings. The latter use the IBM Corp-National Semiconductor Corp Tropic chip set. UK prices were not available as we went to press, but in the US the ElliteSeries of 16-bit 16/4 adaptors cost $600 for both AT bus and Micro Channel versions. Standard Microsystems Group in the UK has pledged that the boards will sell for less than the new 3Com or Madge offerings. The boards also include a free Simple Network Management Protocol agent, but this runs as a terminate stay resident, TSR, application on the personal computer rather than in silicon. Standard Micro of course picked up its Token Ring know-how from Irvine, California-based Western Digital Corp, when it acquired that company’s local area network boards business. The intention is not to license its technology to other adaptor manufacturers, although bridge and router manufacturers are being targeted as possible customers for the Standard Micro chip set, along with manufacturers of protocol analysers and the like. But other than that, Standard Micro will be keeping the chips to itself. So, even though the availability of a third source of silicon in the Token Ring market isn’t as significant as the opening up of the Ethernet market, it is possible, nevertheless, that Standard Micro’s low price adaptors could have a general depressive effect on prices. As for performance, Standard Micro is quoting outrageously high packet throughputs for the raw silicon. However, as far as the actual adaptor boards go, the company claims NetWare Perform 3 ratings to be on a par with Madge’s high-end boards that use the Texas Instruments Inc chips, and substantially faster than Proteon and IBM boards; no comparisons were made with 3Com’s Token Ring products though.
The one cloud on the horizon may be compatibility with true-Blue IBM boards. But Standard Micro says that it envisages no problems here, adding that it is to supply its own drivers for them. Nonetheless, ensuring full compatibility is not necessarily a trivial matter, as Madge has discovered in the past with the Texas Instruments chip set. The two boards are to be available for November. In addition, Standard Micro has unveiled the first of what are promised to be a family of MAUs, Media Access Units. The Elite Passive MAU is the equivalent of IBM’s 8228 with a few added bells, whistles and light-emitting diodes. It comes in an eight-port version costing $650 or a 16-port version at $900. During the course of 1993, Standard Micro says an Elite Intelligent Media Access Unit is also to arrive on the scene. This is to incorporate basic port management, a Token Ring hub board to comply with Novell’s Hub Management Interface. Lastly, Standard Microsystems is venturing into Token Ring network management with Eliteview for Token Ring.
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