LONDON Mindspeed Technologies, a business unit of Conexant Systems Inc., is entering the increasingly competitive merchant market for switch-fabric ICs. The company's iScale chip set will target switches used in the access and metropolitan segments of the market, lining up against the likes of Vitesse Semiconductor Corp., PMC-Sierra Inc. and Power X Networks Inc.
"We plan to be active in a variety of spaces, from the edge to the core of the network," said Michelle Zoncick, director of marketing at Mindspeed's Broadband Internetworking Systems unit. "Our initial product is targeting the carrier edge, which is the 'sweet spot' in the market at the moment, and where the OEMs are looking for off-the-shelf devices. It will take a few more years for the big players offering equipment for the core network to migrate to such parts for now they are inclined to use ASICs".
Zoncick said no other company is delivering a solution as highly integrated as the two-piece iScale for the merchant switch-fabric market, which is "wide open for new entrants," she said.
Mindspeed, based in Newport Beach, Calif., is known as a supplier of ICs for the broadband access equipment. Its entry into the switch-fabric business follows the acquisition last year of HotRail (San Jose, Calif.).
The iScale chip set uses a single stage architecture that allows OEMs to develop a compact switch card design that scales in bandwidth from 40 Gbits/second to 320 Gbits/s, the company said. The iScale chips make use of Mindspeed's CMOS-based SkyRail range of transceivers, which offer 3.125 Gbits/s of bandwidth. The chip set incorporates a queue manager and a crossbar switch, and is entirely protocol agnostic, supporting all types of data traffic, including ATM, Gigabit Ethernet, IP routers and Sonet/SDH. The iScale chip set will work with all industry standard network processor interfaces, Mindspeed said.
The breadth of possible iScale configurations ranges from four OC-92 ports or 16 OC-48 ports up to32 OC-192 ports or 128 OC-48 ports.
"Until now, the industry has been unable to integrate high-speed transceiver links to make high-capacity switch-fabric silicon, and the added expense and complexity of external transceivers has limited the widespread adoption of off-the-shelf solutions for next-generation switching equipment," Zoncick said. "Our iScale switch-fabric chip set solves the problem while providing the most comprehensive feature set available in an off-the-shelf switch fabric."
The switch-fabric IC chip set is fully fault tolerant, can support up to eight independent switching domains, and can tolerate single errors without losing or reordering cells, Mindspeed said. There is complete hot-swapping capability, and the low chip count enables all devices to be placed on a single board for 1+1 redundancy using just two slots in a chassis, the company said.
Sampling will start in June, with volume production earmarked for the fourth quarter of 2001.
John Walko is community leader of CommsDesign.com, an EDTN Web site.