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Smart Snoops

Wall Street Journal, October 30, 1995, p. B3.

Netcom to Use Smart Switches For the Internet

By Audrey Choi

Internet provider Netcom On-Line Communication Services Inc.
said it will use high-speed network switches from Cascade
Communicaffons Corp. in a move to upgrade the speed and
flexibility of its Internet services.

Netcom's decision represents a significant endorsement for
Cascade, a small Westford, Mass.-based company whose revenues
have soared along the rapid growth of the Internet. In
addition to Netcom, Cascade also is supplying switching
devices, which control the flow of information across a
far-flung computer network, to UUNet Technologies Inc. and
Performance Systems International Inc.

To prepare for an expected rise in the number of users,
networking analysts say the Internet needs to move toward a
more efficient architecture based on high-speed intelligent
switches, like Cascade's, which not only allow large volumes
of data to be transmitted quickly, but also offer Internet
service providers the ability to track and manage the data
being transported.

Brad Meinert, senior analyst at research firm Input, says the
tremendous growth of the World Wide Web, a graphics Internet
interface, "is putting increased capacity demands for greater
bandwidth on the Internet infrastructure."

In the past, the Internet depended primarily on simpler
router-based wide-area networks that provided access to users
with dial-up modems and leased lines. Bundles of data moving
over this kind of network is evaluated and processed at each
router until it arrives at its destination -- a tedious
process that can adversely affect time-sensitive applications,
such as video conferencing.

"We've been talking about an information super highway, but
our infrastructure is really just dirt roads," said Daniel E.
Smith, Cascade's president and chief executive. Mr. Meinert
noted that "switching is clearly the next generation, which
allows you to create the virtual network."

Financial details of the Netcom deal weren't disclosed, but
Cascade's Mr. Smith said the deals with the three major
Internet providers initially represents "tens of millions of
dollars" of business. UUNet said it has purchased $6.5 million
worth of Cascade products.

Cascade's switches provide the highest port density and
highest network capacity, analysts say. Its switches range in
cost from $25,000 to $250,000 and enable a far greater number
of users to access the Internet through any one point. While
a typical router may be able to handle 20 to 50 users, a
single Cascade switch can accommodate 1,000 users, says Desh
Deshpande, Cascade's founder and marketing vice president.
Additionally, the management capabilities of the smart
switches enable Internet providers to track how many data
bundles a customer sends, where each bundle is at any point in
time, and what priority on the network they should be given.