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Frame processor supports four 10Gb channels

Posted: 29 Aug 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ample communications? blackbird? integrated frame processor? network frame processor? sonet frame processor?

Ample Communications Inc. is coming out with the first integrated frame processor based on its 40Gbps native core. Given the flat state of the OC-768 market, even the 40Gb Blackbird processor will be marketed primarily as a device for aggregating four channels of 10Gb data flows.

The 40Gb design implemented in Blackbird was actually the first under development at Ample, but VP of marketing Marek Tlalka said it soon became evident that frame processors for lower speeds had more immediate markets.

Nighthawk, a four-channel OC-48 (2.5Gbps) processor, and Skyhawk, a single-channel GbE processor, were sampled in late 2001 to bring in more immediate revenue streams.

Ample is quick to point out that it is not selling the packet-forwarding architectures commonly called network processors, but instead is specializing in chips dwelling between Layers 1 and 2, integrating PHY functions, framing, mapping, pointing, and overhead processing.

In such realms, the company competes with the likes of PMC-Sierra Inc., Applied Microcircuits Corp., and Infineon Technologies Inc.

Blackbird integrates a single STS-768 framer with four STS-192 framers, and includes all SONET support for overhead processing, and section, line and path termination. There are also dedicated control blocks for high-level data link control and point-to-point protocol.

Ample supports OIF standards on both the line and system side: The serdes Framer Interface 5, or SFI-5, standard is used for optical module interface, while the System Packet Interface 4.2 (SPI-4.2) links Blackbird to four 10Gb network processors.

Vish Akella, president and CEO of Ample, said that one obvious advantage to the focus on frame aggregation is that Ample does not have to await the introduction of new network equipment nodes in order to realize design wins.

Upgraded line cards in existing equipment can take advantage of Blackbird, increasing port density on each line card while freeing up more backplane slots for new functions. A fringe benefit of the frame-processing emphasis is that OEMs are more likely to consider standard silicon for such functions, while NPUs remain in many cases a proprietary ASIC designed by the OEM.

Applications for Blackbird include aggregation routers, 40Gb test equipment, VSR serial point-to-point links inside carrier points of presence, nodes in mesh router networks, and resilient packet ring metro systems.

In theory, Ample could integrate medium-access control devices meeting the RPR standard inside future Blackbird derivatives, though Tlalka said the company was waiting to see how widely RPR would be adopted before integrating 802.17-specific silicon.

Ample, which was founded two years ago by veterans of Avail Communications, includes engineers with experience in such leading system houses as Ethernet switch pioneer Kalpana Inc. and frame-relay switch developer Stratacom Inc.

Blackbird will be packaged in a 45-by-45mm FCBGA and will sample to partners at the end of this year. Pricing will be announced at the time of availability in Q1 of 2003.

- Loring Wirbel

EE Times

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