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Start-up takes new IP route

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     Palo Alto, Calif.
     This is where the big boys would like to be.
     Officials from some well-known internetworking firms have created a 
company ready to tackle the tough problem of building high-performance IP 
networks that avoid the bottlenecks of traditional routers.
     At Ipsilon Networks, Inc.s coming-out party last week, the company 
took the wraps off an switching platform that combines the intelligence of 
IP routing with the speed of Asynchronous Transfer Mode switching.
     Ipsilon's IP Switch ATM 1600 is intended to break through the physical 
logjam of switched internets that couple routers and switches. It also 
sidesteps the political  impasse  that  has  stifled
     the efforts of standards groups to meld routing and ATM (NW, Feb. 19, 
page 6).
     'There's no focus, no stability in the ATM Forum,' said Tom Lyon, 
Ipsilon's founder, chairman and chief technical officer. Lyon is a 12-year 
veteran of Sun Microsystems, Inc. and the creator of the ATM Adaptation 
Layer 5 specification for converting data units to ATM cells.
     Ipsilon's management team also includes President and Chief Executive 
Officer Brian NeSmith, who founded Newbridge Networks, Inc.'s VIVID group; 
Larry Blair, vice president of marketing, who, as cofounder of Kalpana, 
Inc., is regarded as the father of Ethernet switching; and officials from 
Cisco Systems, Inc., Novell, Inc., Network Equipment Technologies, Inc., 
Advanced Computer Communications and BBN.
     Due to a legacy in shared-media connectivity and slow standards 
development, the largest internetworking vendors - such as Bay Networks, 
Inc., Cabletron Systems, Inc. and Cisco - are still talking about the 
promises of IP routing and ATM switching in grandiose 'marketectures' 
such as CiscoFusion, but they are not delivering product, analysts said.
     And while most vendors focus on end-to-end ATM, Ipsilon is aiming to 
bring ATM performance to IP nets. The IP Switch ATM 1600 implements the IP 
protocol stack on ATM hardware and dynamically determines when to switch 
and when to route based on the needs of IP conversations, or flows. 
     For longer flows, such as HyperText Transfer Protocol, File Transfer 
Protocol, telnet and multimedia applications, IP Switch ATM 1600 performs 
cut-through switching in the ATM hardware. For shorter conversations, it 
uses store-and-forward IP routing.
     Switch/route methods cobbled together by vendors today usually require 
users to implement a flat net that is limited in scalability or a 
hierarchical structure rife with router-hop bottlenecks, users said.
     'Each router hop examines the packet, which slows down the 
performance of sending them along,' said Noemi Berry, network development 
engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Ames 
Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. 'But the trouble with switched 
networks is that they operate at Layer 2 and you lose the scalability, 
robustness and hierarchical addressing of IP. Now in comes Ipsilon saying 
you don't have to commit yourself to Layer 3 or Layer 2.'
     Instead, users commit to using Ipsilon's software, and Ipsilon 
hardware or other vendors' switching and routing hardware. Ipsilon's 
software provides call setup, teardown and call status, and flow 
redirection messages between switches and hosts.
     The IP Switch ATM 1600 hardware platform includes an Intel Corp. PCI 
bus and sports a Pentium Pro processor and a Multimedia Communications, 
Inc. ATM chipset. In addition, it features 16 155M bit/sec ports, 2.3G 
bit/sec of nonblocking bandwidth and routing performance of more than five 
million IP packets per second.
     Ipsilon also rolled out the IP Switch Gateway, which connects existing 
Ethernet, fast Ethernet and FDDI LANs to the IP Switch ATM 1600.
     Ipsilon's challenge is to have its technology adopted by the leading 
internetworking vendors, according to Fred McClimans, principal of Decisys, 
Inc. in Sterling, Va.
     The IP Switch ATM 1600 costs $46,000. It will ship in April.
     &Ipsilon: (415) 846-4600.

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