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Bringing old networks up to speed

Cabletron has new technology to give tired old Token Ring networks a speed boost.

Networking hardware player Cabletron Systems (CS) is giving companies a way to migrate from old Token Ring technology that they may be outgrowing.

The company will announce new Token Ring modules for its MMAC Plus switching chassis after the July 4th holiday, rounding out an existing multislot box that already supports FDDI (distributed data interface), Ethernet, and ATM (asynchronous transfer mode).

There is a large installed base of Token Ring customers--many are customers of IBM which invented the technology--who count on Token Ring in large corporate enterprise networks. But industry observers say many managers of Token Ring-based networks are looking to move to a next-generation technology, such as high-speed ATM or Gigabit Ethernet.

Token Ring technology can send traffic across a LAN (local area network) at either 4 mbps (megabits per second) or 16 mbps, a far cry from even 100 mbps Fast Ethernet speeds.

Switch maker Xylan may come closest to offering technology similar to the systems that Cabletron will unveil. The company recently added ATM capabilities to its OmniSwitch, rounding out a chassis that already supports FDDI, Token Ring, and Ethernet.

"All our MMAC Plus products were built to intercommunicate," said Frank Hayes, program manager for LAN switching at Cabletron. "We've been pretty strong in Token Ring all along. I think it's time to get real with your customers and give them all the options."

The company will release two types of modules: a 16-port dual-slot Token Ring switching module that can offer a total of 112 ports of the technology within one chassis, or a 24-port, micro-segmented module targeted at desktop users.

The new modules, which will ship in July, will add to Cabletron's Token Ring presence in the networking market. Company officials say 15 percent of Cabletron's business comes from Token Ring networking.

No pricing information is available for the new modules.