MMC Net Processor Could Slice Switch Port Prices

MMC Networks recently unveiled a network processor that company officials say will lower the cost of implementing policy-enabled switches for enterprise users.

MMC's nP3400 chip combines software programmable packet processing with a switch fabric in a single device. It is designed to be embedded on the printed circuit board of a switch or switch module.

Previously, MMC offered packet processing and switching in separate devices, which made switches more costly. The device also includes "policy engines," which will let users download instructions into switches for enabling or disabling network access, prioritizing traffic and other features.

MMC officials say the nP3400 will enable current customers, such as Cisco, Lucent and Nortel Networks, to offer policy-enabled wiring closet switches and switch modules for $50 to $75 per Fast Ethernet port. That's about half the price of today's Layer 2 Fast Ethernet switches, observers say, and more than half the cost of Layer 3 Fast Ethernet switch ports.

"We can offer full software programmability, full policy enablement at these price points," says Robin Melnik, MMC director of product marketing, adding that the nP3400 supports "layer anything" switching.

"MMC is not only looking at the tier 1 vendors, they're looking at some of these smaller guys that can really start building these boxes at a low cost," says Sean Lavey, research analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass.

Lavey says the nP3400 will go up against Broadcom's StrataSwitch, which he says lets vendors build switches at $100 per 100M bit/ sec port.

Broadcom claims StrataSwitch enables per-port pricing as low as $50 to $70 (NW, Aug. 16, 1999, page 17).

The nP3400 features two programmable 200-MHz RISC processors, a 4.4G bit/sec nonblocking switch fabric, and policy engines that support up to 128 rules, MMC says. The device also has a statistics engine for tracking detailed per-flow information.

The nP3400 is designed for stackable 10/100 switches, and 24- or 48-port 100M bit/sec Ethernet switches and switch modules with two Gigabit Ethernet uplinks.

The device can also be used in a variety of WAN products, such as cable, DSL, wireless, and T-1/T-3 and OC-3 to OC-48 access and aggregation systems; edge routers; virtual private network switches and firewalls; and optical metropolitan area network systems.

The nP3400 costs under $100 in volume quantities. Production shipments are slated for mid-2000.


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