Like all equipment classifications, the category of the multiservice switch is sort of a moving target. In its earliest form, multiservice was primarily a way to market an ATM switch without actually calling it an ATM switch.
As the product category matures, however, few equipment makers have had the opportunity to build a multiservice switch from scratch, rather than retrofitting an ATM switch with IP/MPLS capabilities. The latest "pure" multiservice switch maker to emerge is Vivace Networks, which introduced the first two products in its portfolio today.
Though Vivace officials claim their products are built for the edge of the network rather than the core, The Viva5100 actually scales to 320 gigabits per second, which, if you count packets only once, is roughly the size of the core router recently introduced by Juniper Networks. The Viva1050 scales to 16 Gbps.
By combining Layer 2 switching with Layer 3 routing, Vivaces hardware is designed to let carriers continue to build out legacy networks while transitioning to an IP-based core.
"We evolve the existing network," says Ken Koenig, Vivace chairman, president and CEO. "But at the same time, we allow the customer access to IP, Ethernet and Internet services on that network."
The technology is essentially designed to let carriers handle traffic in any manner they require. If granular levels of quality of service are required, says Koenig, the Viva systems are capable of applying the ATM functions of the switch to mission-critical traffic. Through the use of a custom ASIC, the devices are also capable of meshing Layer 2 and Layer 3 technologies.
Vivace officials say they are close to landing a deal with a Tier 1 carrier. Although a spokesman for the carrier asked not to be identified, he says Vivace is close to being approved for a specific service within the network.
One of the characteristics of the larger system is the ability to do frame-to-ATM interworking at high speeds.
Officials describe the box as having multiple subsections which specialize in handling the different types of traffic, including ATM and MPLS.
Koenig says that, by building a multiservice system from the ground up, Vivace can avoid the problem of adding intelligence to a hardware system that was built to do something else.
"Those that have tried to build an ATM switch and crammed IP into it have not been successful," Koenig said. "Its a very difficult thing to do if you dont bake it in from the beginning."
Vivace will show off its product line at next months Supercomm show.