At a time when the world is going chassis-based hub crazy, Madge Networks Ltd took the opposite tack last week. At the announcement of its Smart Controlled Access Unit and Lobe Attachment Module, the Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire company – it’s actually British but likes to look American when it is the other side of […]
At a time when the world is going chassis-based hub crazy, Madge Networks Ltd took the opposite tack last week. At the announcement of its Smart Controlled Access Unit and Lobe Attachment Module, the Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire company – it’s actually British but likes to look American when it is the other side of the water – criticised the fashion for building hubs that support Ethernet, Token Ring and FDDI mainly on the grounds of expense. Not just expense however, there is also the question of demand. Madge reckons that a large segment of the market has standardised on either Ethernet or Token Ring and does not require both. Madge’s plan is to stick with the Token Ring market that it knows best. Five years after the company launched its first Token Ring adaptor board, it now lays claim to the worldwide number two spot, trailing IBM. The vast bulk of the company’s revenue springs from these adaptor boards, but it is hoping the new products will change that. So the company has continued its strategy of watching what IBM does and trying to do it just a little better. This time, the target is the IBM 8230 which the new Madge products mirror almost exactly. Martin Taylor, Madge’s UK product marketing manager, admits readily that the company is not going against IBM in terms of price or huge functional additions. Instead, Masge is concentrating on the details, adding little things that it believes will let it break into the IBM-dominated market. The smallest of these touches are seemingly trivial – an extra light emitting diode next to each port socket to indicate whether a particular lobe has been disconnected from the ring either because of a fault or intervention by the network manager. Its a small addition to IBM’s basic plan, but the type of thing that appeals to support engineers who have to wrestle with cabling in wiring closets, says Taylor. Similarly, Robert Madge says that one of the most commen causes of failure for Token Ring local area networks is users that try to connect to it at the wrong speed, confusing 4Mbps and 16Mbps adaptors. To combat this, Madge’s new access unit and lobe attachment automatically detect the problem and bar entry. The enhancements have to be small so that the Madge devices can successfully infiltrate IBM sites. From IBM’s network management programmes point of view, the Smart Controlled Access Unit should look just like an 8230. Similarly, the free graphical management software that Madge provides manages IBM’s devices just like its own, although it is intelligent enough to represent them differently on the screen. The Smart Controlled AccesCAU costs UKP2,000 and supports up to four 20 port Smart Lobe Attachment Modules which cost UKP1,300. The company also announced a stand-alone high performance Token Ring bridge, the Smart Ringbridge, which is claimed to run at up to 12,500 frames per second, substantially faster than the IBM 8209 which it emulates – enough to connect 16Mbps local area networks at full speed. In addition to being a bridge, the device scores by serving as an IPX router for Novell traffic handy for people running mixed IBM-NetWare networks. The Smart Ringbridge costs UKP4,500.