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Bay joins IP stampede

Bay Networks is getting into network switching hardware that takes advantage of IP, the dominant protocol of the Internet.

Bay Networks (BAY) has finally joined the stampede toward switching hardware that takes advantage of IP, the dominant protocol of the Internet.

Bay Networks introduced the Switch Node routing switch hardware that can offload IP routing responsibilities from overburdened routers.

The product, which will ship in May, is the latest in a long line of new gear that is intended to address the explosion of Internet-based traffic on networks. It directly competes against the dominance of Cisco Systems in the router market.

Bay Networks has until now been relatively quiet about IP switching, offering its asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) technology strategy as a way to provide the same functionality using existing ATM-based protocols.

The Switch Node offers a five-slot chassis, with one dedicated to a CPU board that takes care of routing services. The other four slots can support Ethernet and Fast Ethernet modules. Analysts said the new Switch Node keeps Bay Networks in the game as the new IP-based gear starts to roll onto networks.

"It's yet another alternative in that market," said Skip MacAskill, senior research analyst for the Gartner Group consultancy. "[IP switching] is starting to become a reality for some users."

MacAskill said the Switch Node offers a good alternative for Bay Networks existing customers and could also find a home as a front-end device to cut down on traffic flowing through a Cisco router.

Craig Johnson, principal analyst for research house Current Analysis of Ashburn, Virginia, said the new Switch Node is a good short-term move for Bay Networks, since it can be thrown into existing infrastructures with few headaches.

"It basically turbo charges local segments [on a network]," Johnson said. A hole in the product, according to Johnson, is the lack of a wide area network flow-based capability for data.

A distinctive feature of the Switch Node is an AutoLearn capability that lets the switch build a forwarding table of IP addresses for local segments without having to use a routing protocol. This allows a Switch Node to be placed into a router-based network regardless of the routing protocol being used.

The new five-slot switching chassis is priced at $2,495 and the central CPU module goes for $5,490. Ethernet-based modules that slide into the remaining slots start at $6,495.