Zarlink intros Fast Ethernet switch family

8 August 2003 Ottawa, Canada -- Zarlink Semiconductor has announced volume availability of a new family of small Fast Ethernet switching chips that deliver advanced features to a switch segment traditionally served by devices with only limited functionality, say company representatives.

8 August 2003 Ottawa, Canada -- Zarlink Semiconductor has announced volume availability of a new family of small Fast Ethernet switching chips that deliver advanced features to a switch segment traditionally served by devices with only limited functionality, say company representatives.

For network access equipment with a small number of ports, previous generations of Fast Ethernet switches performed basic packet forwarding, typically with only rudimentary management capabilities. However, as high-speed multimedia applications--streaming video and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) among others--become more pervasive and drive greater traffic volumes, service providers and equipment manufacturers require low port-count systems that process time-sensitive traffic more effectively, with better network security.

Zarlink's new ZL50408 family offers a full suite of advanced access and quality of service (QoS) features for the market.

"Ethernet is moving further into the metro access environment, and customers need small Fast Ethernet switches with more sophisticated features," explains Jitesh Vadhia, senior vice president and general manager, Network Communications, Zarlink Semiconductor. "Our devices combine advanced features with a low-power, small-footprint package, offering easy-to-use functionality and versatility for a wide range of applications and customer needs."

The six-device ZL50408 family consists of eight-port Fast Ethernet switches with a Gigabit uplink, as well as five- and nine-port switches. Available in managed or lightly managed options, the switches provide full wire-speed forwarding at Layer 2 and classification at Layers 2 through 4. The Gigabit uplink versions--the ZL50408/407 devices--are expandable to 16 ports.

The new Ethernet switching chips complement Zarlink's portfolio of 16-port (ZL50418 family) and 24-port (MVTX2604 family) Fast Ethernet switches. They can be used with Zarlink's TDM-to-IP processors (MT90880 family) and Gigabit switches (MVTX2804 devices).

Precise input and output rate control
The ZL50408 family provides what the company claims is the industry's finest-granularity rate control--down to 16-Kbits/sec increments--on both ingress and egress ports. Most other devices provide rate control to a coarse granularity of only 1 Mbit/sec and may not meet service providers' needs for fine rate limiting. With Zarlink's bi-directional rate control, providers can offer differentiated services by meeting the precise bandwidth-on-demand requirements of xDSL, cable modem, and fiber-to-the-home broadband access technologies.

The switches support other QoS and access features, such as congestion management at the input and output of each port, patent-pending port security and filtering, the IEEE's 802.1X Extensive Authentication Protocol, 4K VLAN (virtual local area network), 4K IP multicasting, advanced statistics monitoring, and link aggregation with the capability to trunk ports across chips.

Hardware-based fast failure detection
Zarlink's new Ethernet switches also feature patent-pending, hardware-based failure detection and recovery mechanisms, enabling real-time detection of and recovery from link failures within milliseconds, compared to several seconds with some current schemes. The ZL50408 device switches data on the failed link to a backup link or redistributes traffic to multiple ports. This "fast fail-over" enables systems to recover quickly from potential failures, improving overall system reliability, say Zarlink representatives.

Optimized for line cards
The ZL50408 switches with integrated memory are optimized for line card designs because, unlike most low-density devices, they do not include on-chip Ethernet PHYs. PHYs are not always needed on all line card ports, but add to power consumption whether used or not, and lock designers into a specific logic.

Zarlink's PHY-independent switches consume usually 0.4 to 0.8 W, compared to typical consumption of 2 W in Ethernet switches with integrated PHYs. Zarlink's switches support three standard interfaces on each port: IEEE 802.3 MII (media-independent interface), RMII (reduced media-independent interface); and GPSI (general purpose serial interface). These flexible port interfaces allow direct, seamless connections to digital signal processors (DSPs) and network processors without requiring external conversion logic.

All six switches are qualified for industrial-grade temperatures, from -40 to 85 ° Celsius. The ZL50408 family is supported by Zarlink's evaluation unit and management software, available in Nucleus and VxWorks operating systems.

The ZL50408 family is now in volume production. The devices are designed in 0.18-micron CMOS technology and available in 208-pin BGA (ball grid array) packages. In sample volumes of 100, the ZL50409 is priced at $33.48; the ZL50408 at $34.44; the ZL50407 at $32.57; the ZL50405 at $24.34; the ZL50404 at $22.61; and ZL50400 at $31.62.

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