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Convex works to eliminate internet constraints.

Performance limitations on current generation internetworking devices can severely limit the growth of internetworks.

As a manufacturer of supercomputers, Convex understands the importance of accommodating throughput and bandwidth-intensive applications. And as a company that has grown nearly 20% per year for more than five years, we've seen major changes in our T1 and router networks. Accommodating new users, new services, new offices and even new international subsidiaries requires a flexible network that supports the business goals of the corporation.

Because of its relative youth, Convex had the advantage of building its communications network without having to replace older, embedded technologies. The network has been an early testing ground for new carrier services and leading edge equipment. We were early users of fast packet switching, both public and private frame reley services, inverse multiplexing and, most recently, backbone routing. We were an early beta site for Coral Network Corp.'s Broadband Enterprise Switch, a fault-tolerant, high-performance bridge and router that is based on next-generation hardware to be used on the backbone for corporate internetworks.

Our open systems environment uses its own hosts as well as several other systems running in peer-to-peer environments. The company is a large user of workstations, from Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard and Silicon Graphics. For compatibility, most systems are Unix-based, with TCP/IP making up 99% of the internetwork traffic.

Convex also routes DECnet IV and V, as well as Apple and OSI protocols.

Ethernet runs on the local area networks in the remote locations and at the headquarters campus in Richardson, Texas. The corporate wide area backbone is an 11-node fast packet network based on multiplexers supplied by StrataCom Inc. We run data traffic using frame relay over the backbone and through public frame relay services.

The explosive growth of Ethernet LANs, primarily connecting the workstations to large-scale servers, encouraged Convex to build a large, router-based network. Sun's Network File System, used extensively in our network, is impacted heavily by network architecture and router performance.

A portion of the internet consists of multiple Ethernets segmented by routers at the headquarters campus. The campus network is fiber based; the backbone runs FDDI. Data traffic is currently routed using Cisco Systems equipment.

The fiber network extends to the desktop, where each station has two fiber network connections as well as copper-based voice and data connections.

However, the internetwork is now constrained by limitations of router equipment currently available on the market. Because of the high-performance requirements, Convex needs to build a backbone internetwork that can provide higher performance, higher throughput, and better access to wide area network facilities.

Router throughput is the major constraining factor with existing products. We need internetworking products that support twice the packet forwarding rates and, consequently, router throughput.

Hardware redundancy and the ability to "hot swap" cards is also a limitation on current generation routers.

Next generation solution

Convex served as an initial beta site for the Coral CX1600, a fault-tolerant, high-performance backbone internetworking system. In the pilot testing, we routed IP traffic over Ethernet from its laboratory onto the FDDI ring and were able to bridge and route network traffic at full line speeds. Coral's non-blocking bus architecture eliminated the hardware constraints on the internetwork. Because the technology incorporates wideband switching technology, we are evaluating how the CX1600 may serve as a network switching platform that incorporates capabilities found in either routers or T1 multiplexers.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
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Title Annotation:Convex Computer Corp.
Author:Gibson, Coyne
Publication:Communications News
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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