IBM adds zing to token ring

IBM adds zing to token ring

IBM is trying to rekindle its romance with token ring users before the relationship hits the divorce court.

The company is expected this month to announce a suite of 128Mbit/sec and 100Mbit/sec token ring PC adapters, modules, switches and other products designed to woo users back into the Big Blue fold and let them build larger, faster token ring enterprise backbones.

IBM hopes the new, faster token ring products will help stem the tide of users moving to Ethernet, Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet products while helping users decongest clogged token ring server arteries.

Other companies, such as Cisco Systems and 3Com, have been jumping into the token ring fray with promises of creating technology to make fast token ring a reality. But their plans are not for a pure token ring package such as IBM's new products. For example, Cisco has been touting plans for enhancing its Fast Ethernet InterSwitch Link trunking protocol, which allows for the attaching of ISL tags to token ring frames and sending the frames across 100Mbit/sec Fast Ethernet links.

Other vendors, such as 3Com, Bay Networks and Xylan, have indicated they also would support IBM's pure token ring initiative. Xylan may even have an integral role in IBM's token ring rollout, sources said.

The new token ring products are expected to include blades for the 8260 Intelligent Hub and adapters for the 8274 token ring switch. New high-speed network interface card adapters also will be in the package. Other future products will probably include a fast token ring adapter for the 37XX front-end processor and support for the technology in IBM's mainframe-based Open Systems Adapter (OSA). OSA allows direct LAN connectivity to the mainframe.

The new products are going to be backwards-compatible with today's 4Mbit/sec and 16Mbit/sec token ring LANs, sources said. Some of the products should be available by year-end, sources said.

Support included?

What is unclear is whether IBM will announce support for the new IEEE 802.1q specification, which defines how users can run token ring frames within Fast Ethernet frames.

One source speculated IBM may hedge its bets by supporting pure 128Mbit/sec token ring environments and 100Mbit/sec 802.1q nets as well. IBM did not comment on the rumoured announcement.

In addition, sources said IBM also will rehash an oft-overlooked existing technical capability called token ring piping - that lets users combine multiple token ring ports into one large, logical token ring pipe.

Customers that purchased token ring products over the past four years probably have token piping capability but few have deployed it, observers

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