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Gigabit gear abounds at ComNet

A hard-core networking trade show highlights the move to gigabit-speed equipment, with Bay, Foundry, and XLNT taking advantage of the spotlight.

    The flood gates are open.

    Taking advantage of the networking focus at the ComNet trade show in Washington this week, Bay Networks (BAY), Foundry Networks, and XLNT all rolled out enhancements to their gigabit-speed equipment today in hopes of differentiating themselves in a glutted market.

    Various well-established and start-up networking players are spinning their takes on next-generation high-speed equipment this week, with most of the talk centering about how new gear can take advantage of Gigabit Ethernet.

    Ethernet has long been the dominant means for PCs and servers to be connected together in a network. Gigabit Ethernet extends the performance of the technology to 1000 mbps (megabits per second). A standard for the technology is expected to be ratified this spring.

    Bay--an early entrant in the gigabit fray among the major networking players due to its acquisition of Rapid City Communications last year--rolled out a new switch targeted at heavy-duty users and server farms that need fast links.

    The new equipment, part of the recently rechristened Accelar line, includes four Gigabit Ethernet ports and two modular slots for 10/100 or 100-mbps Ethernet connections. It will ship in April for $14,995.

    Foundry, among the start-ups that have not been gobbled up by large firms, continues to augment its product line, adding chassis-based equipment with high-density Gigabit Ethernet support.

    The BigIron gear is being offered in four-slot and eight-slot versions, with total support for 152 10/100-mbps Ethernet ports and 64 1000-mbps ports. The new chassis start at $3,995, with modules starting at $8,995. The four-slot model will be available in March and the eight-slot model will roll out in July.

    XLNT has focused on tying Gigabit Ethernet to other technologies such as FDDI (fiber distributed data interface). The company's latest move is to add support for ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) to its Millennium 4000 switch via a module. The enhancement is priced at $9,995.

    Various industry research firms have pegged the market for gigabit-speed equipment at more than $1 billion by the year 2000. Those expectations have led to a glut of companies in the market and an associated acquisition spree by larger networking companies.