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Xylan does all-in-one switching

Xylan will add ATM networking technology and hardware routing capabilities to its OmniSwitch multiprotocol chassis.

Pick a networking pipe, any networking pipe. Xylan (XYLN) dares you.

Adding to its switching breadth, the Calabasas, California-based company will on Monday add ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) networking technology and hardware routing capabilities to its OmniSwitch multiprotocol chassis. The chassis accepts various other plug-in modules that support multiple networking technologies.

The all-in-one approach to switching has the potential to alleviate network bottlenecks for users and offer a centralized point for administrators to manage networking gear.

Xylan's use of routing and firewall technology will provide speedy access for users arriving and departing from the corporate local to wide area networks and the public network.

The OmniSwitch, Xylan's flagship product, already includes support for Ethernet, Token Ring, and Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) technologies.

On Monday, the company will add an ATM-based backplane that various ATM modules, dubbed X-Cell, can plug into. The company will also add a new hardware routing module called the Hardware Routing Engine that includes internally developed Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) technology that optimizes a chip for a specific function.

The potpourri of networking capability underscores the current complexity found in many corporate networks today. Xylan and other multiprotocol chassis, such as Cabletron Systems' MMAC-Plus, hope to win customers by offering a centralized approach. As intranets explode, a single chassis that ties together technologies can drastically simplify network management.

Xylan is among the first vendors to integrate hardware-based routing into a multiprotocol chassis. A pure hardware routing implementation moves data at faster speeds than software-based approaches. The Hardware Routing Engine will support IP (Internet Protocol), following a growing trend in the industry. Bay Networks and Madge Networks both recently announced IP-based routing boxes.

"Xylan is pretty much on the leading edge of this space at this time," noted Craig Johnson, principal analyst for Current Analysis, a market researcher based in Ashburn, Virginia.

The company will also announce the fruits of an OEM relationship with Check Point Software Technologies by bundling that company's firewall capabilities into Xylan's Unix-based internetworking operating system. This will provide secure access for users entering the wide area network via uplinks in the OmniSwitch.

"They've been trying to get into the game. With these products, it allows them to compete up with the big boys," said Johnson, alluding to competitors such as Bay Networks and Cisco Systems. "In the corporate LAN space, they have a really good value proposition."

The new OmniSwitch features will ship sometime next quarter, but the majority of the new equipment may initially go straight to major OEM partner IBM first. Also, expect Xylan to introduce a 36-port Ethernet switch soon that can be subdivided into four LAN segments.