Zarlink Introduces ClassSwitch Ethernet Platform Targeting IP Video Distribution and Network Security

OTTAWA - Zarlink Semiconductor (NYSE/TSX:ZL) today introduced the first two devices in its new ClassSwitch platform of single- chip, full-service Layer 2 Ethernet switches designed for network access equipment supporting packet-based applications, such as IPTV (Internet Protocol television).

Zarlink's ClassSwitch platform supports the cost-effective design of line cards or compact systems deployed in Central Offices, Cable Head-Ends or Customer Premises Equipment that must aggregate, inspect and modify multiple real-time applications delivered over Fast and Gigabit Ethernet. The devices enable IP multicast packet-forwarding service distribution, a key element in the delivery of IP video in the first mile.

The platform includes the ZL(TM)33042 with 24 FE (Fast Ethernet) + 2 GE (Gigabit Ethernet) port configurations and the ZL33046 Ethernet switch delivering 16 FE + 2 GE port configurations. Future devices will incorporate lower and higher data throughput and optional port count configurations.

"With the demand for IP video applications over packet networks and escalating security threats, operators must guarantee proper handling of IP multicast traffic while ensuring policy off-load and content protection," said Mauricio Peres, product line director, Packet Switching, Zarlink Semiconductor. "Our carrier-grade ClassSwitch platform integrates advanced packet identification and user flow policing, metering and filtering to support effective IP policy provisioning, allowing network operators to efficiently deliver advanced applications."

Growing demand for real-time packet services, including television over broadband, requires network access equipment that more efficiently analyzes and manages network traffic. Pacific Crest estimates the IPTV market will grow from 3 million subscribers today to over 25 million in 2008, and 75 million in 2010.

In response, carriers are evolving their networks to better support triple play voice, video and data services. According to In-Stat Market Research, IP/Ethernet DSLAM (digital subscriber line access multiplexer) ports will account for 75% of worldwide DSLAM ports by 2009. Infonetics Research forecasts a 310% growth in PON (passive optical network) equipment by 2008, with equipment sales hitting US$2.2 billion.

Identifying end-user packet flows

As IP applications and web-based services dominate network traffic, access equipment must be able to efficiently identify and handle an increasing number of IP-based "user packet flow" types. For example, IPTV, VoIP, video-on- demand, and control and signaling messages are distinct flows that must be uniquely managed.

Zarlink's ClassSwitch platform provides high intelligence for aggregation equipment, while lowering equipment design costs by integrating multiple features on a single chip. Packets entering the devices are classified to a flow based on user-defined rules, using information such as frame source and destination address or applications using L2 (Layer 2) to L7 (Layer 7) fields of incoming packets. Up to 1,024 distinct flows can be created per device. The architecture supports per-flow two-rate, three-color metering and policing. Scheduling algorithms, such as SP (strict priority) and WFQ (weighted fair queuing), manage packets and prioritize queued traffic.

Additional traffic flow classification features allow operators to better manage service level agreements and access control. With multiple classification fields, network operators can precisely monitor network traffic, ensure packets are forwarded to specific ports, specify transmission and dropping priorities, and maintain secure connections for their customers.

Hardware-based security features

Zarlink's Ethernet switches integrate a hardware-based DoS (denial of service) attack-flow engine to protect against viruses and malicious attacks. This attack prevention engine ensures uninterrupted services while preventing the loss of information or revenue that can result from network disruptions.

The ClassSwitch family's built-in "packet identifier" micro-engine pre- filters L2 to L7 packet fields can be used to match suspicious traffic types. If user programmable patterns are recognized, the devices forward suspicious packets to off-the-shelf Deep Content Analysis processors for further analysis. Zarlink classifier switches can be programmed to accept or deny service based on the information used for classification.

Advanced switch design

Zarlink's Ethernet switches include up to 24 MACs (media access controllers) for 10/100 Mbps and two GMACs (Gigabit MACs) for 10/100/1000 Mbps. All MACs and GMACs support copper (twisted wire) or fiber physical interfaces. In its core, the device family provides multi-field traffic classification of L2 and L7 fields, IP Multicast and Unicast bandwidth distribution, and a traffic queuing engine.

Fair management of traffic is maintained at all times through an advanced WFQ scheduling algorithm, flexible packet buffer and queue management, and a WRED (weighted random early detect) algorithm. To simplify equipment design, the platform's parametric programmability allows efficient and flexible system development without requiring additional programming for network processor implementations.

Programmable prioritized filtering and forwarding allows hardware-based per-flow accounting, allowing processor resources to be dedicated to more important tasks. The ToS (type of service), priority or DSCP (differentiated service code points) bits can be re-tagged based on the traffic classification allowing DiffServ implementations at wire-speed. New service level agreements based on Ethernet type, VLAN ID, 802.1p priority Type of Service (ToS, DSCP), L2/L3 and subnet addresses, L4 port numbers and others are immediately possible at wire-speed.

Support and availability

Zarlink's ClassSwitch family is supported by a field-proven software platform. The switches incorporate device driver software offering an easy-to- use API supporting advanced access control, and various protocol modules including IGMPv3 for IP video applications.

The ZL33042 and ZL33046 Ethernet switches, available now, are priced at US$68.00 and US$60.00 respectively in quantities of 5,000 units. Evaluation boards with various plug-in modules for 100/1000 Ethernet transceivers as well as CPUs based on PowerPC, ARM and MIPS will be available soon.

More information on the product is available at http://products.zarlink.com/product_profiles/ZL33042.htm.

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