Tandem Computers Inc’s San Jose-based Ungermann Bass Inc has revealed details of its Vitual Network Architecture, with a promise that the first products will appear in June. The company’s approach is intended to enable network managers simply to define and re-define virtual local networks so that teams within a company can be brought together electronically […]
Tandem Computers Inc’s San Jose-based Ungermann Bass Inc has revealed details of its Vitual Network Architecture, with a promise that the first products will appear in June. The company’s approach is intended to enable network managers simply to define and re-define virtual local networks so that teams within a company can be brought together electronically and then disbanded, irrespective of geographic location. It is an idea that the fans of Asynchronous Transport Mode technology have been touting for some time, but Ungermann is shying away from Asynchronous Transfer Mode to the desktop at the moment. Instead, the initial implementation will appear as an Ethernet switch called the DragonSwitch, which fits into its existing Access/One hubs. Ethernet switches are nothing new: both Kalpana Inc and 3Com Corp have implementations. These jettison the shared medium of Ethernet in favour of a star-shaped configuration in which each networked device sits at the end of its own private Ethernet segment, where it gets the benefit of the whole 10Mbps. However Ungermann is the first seriously to use the architecture as a means to provide virtual networks. A switch by itself is not enough, so key to Virtual Network Architecture is a new version of its network management, NetDirector/VNA. This is a new module that runs on top of the existing NetDirector system. Using it, network managers can define virtual networks by simply dragging users or resources into workgroups. The software will also work across multiple domains, so that network managers in different parts of the organisation can simultaneously tweak the network; this is achieved by giving them simultaneous access to the central management database. Initially Virtual Network Architecture will be limited to the local area network: each DragonSwitch module supports 16 Ethernet ports and up to five modules can be slotted into each Access/One chassis. Inter-module traffic is passed over the chassis’ internal PlusBus. The switch’s processing power is furnished by four Intel 80960 RISC processors, one of which handles communication with the bus, while the others act as the switching and routing engines.
Given Ungermann’s fighting talk about Asynchronous Transfer Mode to the desktop, the Dragonswitch seems something of an anti-climax, despite the company’s claims that, combined with Virtual Network Architecture it provides many of the benefits of Asynchronous Transfer Mode technology on today’s Ethernet networks. Ungermann now says that Asynchronous Transfer Mode to the desktop will follow sometime next year. On the other hand, Virtual Network Architecture is nicely positioned to be scalable to the wide area. The company hopes to extend the architecture by getting router manufacturers to lend their support. Existing partners Wellfleet Communications Inc and Advanced Computer Communications Inc jumped in last week to give their blessings, although neither could say exactly what supporting the technology will require of them. Nonetheless Ungermann says it is confident that it will have the wide area support ready by the end of the year. During the first quarter of 1994 it says that, it will add support for Asynchronous Transfer Mode across the wide area, which will presumably require a wide area Asynchronous Transfer Mode board for the Access/One. Ungermann says that all of its future products will support Virtual Network Architecture, and that the DragonSwitch is just the first product in a family named after the mythical reptile.