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ATM: Speeding Up Networks
The wide range of today's multimedia applications are spurring demand for high-speed, high-bandwidth networks that can deliver larger sets of data faster. An important technology that is speeding up networks is called ATM, or Asynchronous Transfer Mode. ATM is a high-speed, connection-oriented switching technology that can transmit voice, video, and data traffic simultaneously through fixed-length packets called cells.

At the IBM Research Laboratory in Zurich, Switzerland, researchers have designed what's known as PRIZMA technology, or "Switch-on-a-chip." Switches are an integrated element in networks because they control the flow and direction of data. Through the Zurich lab's extensive research, IBM is able to offer an integrated circuit embedded with sophisticated switch technology that adds higher, more efficient performance to high speed and ATM-based networks, thereby speeding up data-intensive applications.

Network Fabric
The Switch-on-a-chip is based on a single chip switch element from which larger network switching "fabrics" can be constructed. These larger switch cores have the capability of delivering hundreds of gigabytes of data each second.

The architecture of Switch-on-a-chip is based on the separation of data from control flows. The IBM researchers in Zurich designed a way to control the output queues - the waiting lines for data - so that the Switch-on-a-chip delivers very high performance without losing any data packets in transmission. The result is faster data flow, with all the information arriving at its destination intact.

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