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Unisphere combines ATM and IP in one box

Unisphere Networks has announced a new series of routing switches for the edge of service-provider networks.

The MRX Multi-Service Edge Router combines native IP routing and ATM switching and allows service providers to offer either type of service on any port or any individual circuit on a port, according to Bill Glynn, senior product line manager for Unisphere's IP routing group.

Many incumbent service providers provide voice and data services using ATM, which can offer a guaranteed quality of service (QoS) for delay-sensitive traffic. Some are now migrating to IP, which promises to let them eventually offer sophisticated services such as voice calls, multimedia and videoconferencing over a single network

With the MRX, carriers will be able to continue offering ATM services to some customers, with full support for the classes of service built in to ATM. At the same time, the carriers can shift other customers on to new IP services one circuit at a time. Using standard IP mechanisms such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Differentiated Services (DiffServ), the MRX platform lets carriers keep giving the same kind of treatment to special traffic after the migration to IP, Glynn said.

Corporations are demanding reliable high-speed data connections, such as 155Mbps OC-3 links, and in some cases the capability to do videoconferencing, said Christin Flynn, an analyst at Yankee Group. However, swapping ATM switches for IP routers one box at a time is highly disruptive, she said.

"To truly migrate your Layer 2 (switched) networks to an IP-based core ... you have to be able to do native ATM," Flynn said. "You may want to move some of their traffic over to the IP core, but not all of it."

"Service providers are looking for something a little more deterministic in their IP networks," Flynn said.

Many incumbent carriers are reaching the limits of capacity on their metropolitan ATM networks, which are based on aging ATM switches paired with traditional IP routers, said Tracey Vanik.

In addition to providing ATM services to corporations, those networks may aggregate consumer broadband traffic from digital subscriber line access multiplexers (DSLAM). The MRX gives them a chance to expand that capacity and also move from multiple boxes to one device, thus freeing up space in their facilities at the same time, Vanik said.

An MRX chassis can provide from 40G bps to 320G bps of total capacity depending on the number and type of modules deployed in it. Carriers can set up a wide range of optical interfaces, ranging from OC-3 to OC-48 (2.5Gbps) as well as Gigabit Ethernet.

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