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Ascend turns on more switches

The company will announce four new modules that slide into the company's high-end Frame Relay network switch to bring costs down while offering higher performance.

Supplying Frame Relay-based networks that cater to telecommunications companies and service providers is a lucrative niche; no one knows that better than Ascend Communications (ASND).

As a result of the spring acquisition of the Westford, Massachusetts-based Cascade Communications for more than $3 billion, Ascend immediately became the market leader in switching devices based on Frame Relay. Frame Relay, a network switching technology, fits well into a wide area network scheme due to its efficient handling of large bursts of data packet flows.

Ascend will announce four new modules that slide into the company's high-end Frame Relay switch next Monday, including two pieces of hardware that tie Frame Relay-based schemes to high-speed multimedia ATM (asynchronous transfer mode)-based backbone networks. The rollout also gives customers the ability to provide services based on IP, the dominant communications protocol for the Net.

Cascade built a franchise on expensive, technology-dense switches that provide Frame Relay-based connections for Internet Service Providers (ISP) and telecommunications carriers looking to offer services, such as leased lines, to customers.

The new additions are focused at bringing costs-per-port down while offering higher performance, according to Ascend executives. The new modules slide into the company's B-STDX wide area switch, one hardware component that has helped the company achieve the dominant market share position in several Frame Relay-based network equipment categories, according to several recent market studies.

The hardware, integrated with service provisioning software provided by Ascend, gives service providers an automatic way to segment a pipe for customers buying a leased line.

A one-port DS-3/1/0 (Digital Service) module will ship in the first quarter of next year, with prices of $100 per port for a 672-port capacity DS-0 implementation. The other modules--a 12-port E1, one-port DS-3/E3 module, and a one-port OC-3/STM-1 ATM module--are available immediately.