CAMPBELL, Calif. ( ChipWire) -- I-Cube Inc. here is rolling out a crosspoint-switch line this week as part of a strategy to abandon the Ethernet LAN business in favor of more lucrative switching markets.
I-Cube's first release, the OCX160, is an 80 x 80 crossbar that can switch 667 Mbits/second at each port. The part is a follow-up to the company's existing IQ, IQX and MSX crossbar families.
The goal is to make an off-the-shelf part that replaces the FPGA or ASIC that often serves as a crosspoint, said Sean Long, vice president of marketing for I-Cube. The crossbar sits at the center of a switching fabric and makes the actual connections between input and output ports; I-Cube shares this market with other communications IC firms such as Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. of Camarillo, Calif.
While individual ports can only switch OC-12 (622-Mbit/s) traffic, the OCX160 will have a place in OC-192 (10-Gbit/s) switching, Long said.
"When people are bringing in an OC-192, typically they're not switching at those data rates," he said. Often, the incoming 10-Gbit/s signal is broken into 16 streams of 622-Mbit/s traffic, using the low-voltage differential signal interface.
The OCX family also supports the low-voltage positive emitter-coupled logic interface used in video applications and older telecom applications, Long said.
Rather than use a multiplexing scheme inside the crossbar, I-Cube populates every possible intersection with a pass transistor and an SRAM cell. To activate a connection, the SRAM cell turns on the pass transistor; otherwise, the transistor lies dormant.
This approach allows for predictable timing inside the crossbar, Long said. I-Cube also assigns each intersection a "loading" SRAM cell, so that a new configuration can be staged while the chip is running. The new configuration then can be activated all at once.
Like many companies in networking, 10-year-old I-Cube is shifting its business away from the LAN, a decision that came last March. "We made the decision to effectively downsize the company and focus more on crosspoint switches," Long said. "The market for Ethernet switch chips was becoming so commoditized. A small company like I-Cube can't compete."
The OCX160 will complete its first fab run this month, as will the OCX256, a 128 x 128 follow-on part. I-Cube also is preparing the OCX80, a 40 x 40 port device that can hit speeds of 1.6 Gbits/s per port, making it viable for high-definition TV. A second-generation OC-48 (2.5-Gbit/s) part is in development as well.
Samples of the OCX160 are due in November, with production volumes set for the first quarter of 2001. Pricing is $144 in 1,000-unit lots, or $165 for devices hardened for industrial temperatures.
The OCX256 and OCX80 are due to begin sampling in the first quarter of 2001.