Torrent Networking Technologies Prepares for Internet Traffic Deluge

Torrent Networking Technologies Prepares for Internet Traffic Deluge

By Shannon Henry
Staff Writer

Torrent Networking Technologies Corp., Landover, Md., is shipping its high-speed router to four beta testers this month, part of an ambitious plan to roll out the product in the first quarter of next year.

Among the first to try the next-generation gigabit router will be Intel Corp. in Santa Clara, Calif., and Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., said Hemant Kanakia, the company's president and founder. An Internet service provider and one other organization that he would not name will round out the beta testers.

Torrent's products will go up against those of industry giants Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif., and Ascend Communications Corp., Alameda, Calif., which currently dominate the router and switch domain and also have new "intelligent" routers. Specifically, Cisco has an asynchronous transfer mode switch called Tag Switching and Ascend has an ATM product called IP Navigator.

Kanakia said his technology is different. "There's a slew of gigabit switch companies," he admitted. "But this is a new breed of routers." The former switching expert for AT&T Bell Laboratories said his router offers 100 times the performance of other high- end routers for one-tenth of the price.

At the Mid-Atlantic Venture Fair last week in Vienna, Va., Kanakia told his story to potential Torrent investors. Kanakia is currently looking for $15 million to finance sales, marketing, research and development, and for working capital. Kanakia founded the company in 1996 and now has 27 employees. The router, called the IP9000, is Torrent's first product, so it does not yet have revenues.

Torrent is promising guaranteed Internet transmission to individual traffic flows. That means that certain transmissions - of voice, data, video, audio and multimedia - can be assigned a certain priority level depending on bandwidth need and the importance and timeliness of the information.

Now on the Internet, most information is transmitted on a first-come, first-served basis that can cause major slowdowns and blockages. Torrent's system works like a mail service that assigns packets a certain class, such as regular mail, priority or overnight delivery. Network managers who use Torrent's system choose one of three levels of service: guaranteed priority, best-effort and limited.

The router works over the Internet, intranets, and high-speed local-area and wide-area networks. It is standards-based and does not use any proprietary technology.

Supporters of the largely untested routers include Mark Warner, managing director of Alexandria, Va.-based investment company Columbia Capital, which made an undisclosed investment in the company.

Torrent's board of directors includes fellow Columbia Capital managing directors Phil Herget and Jim Murray as well as individual investor Frank Bonsal, a founding partner in the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, Baltimore.

The timing for Torrent is crucial - companies are now realizing that the demand for Internet bandwidth is growing faster than anyone expected.

UUNet photo

John Sidgmore,
CEO of UUNet

"Our network engineers tell me 'if you're not scared, you don't understand,' said John Sidgmore, CEO of UUNet, a division of Jackson, Miss.-based WorldCom, the company that recently agreed to buy MCI Communications Corp.

Three years from now WorldCom's network will be 1,000 times bigger than it is now, which is 100 times bigger than the whole Internet is currently, said Sidgmore at the Mid-Atlantic Venture Fair.

"This creates a scaling challenge that is absolutely mind-boggling," he said.

In fact, Sidgmore predicted, by 2000 half of all bandwidth will be used for data transmission, and by 2003, voice will make up less than 1 percent.

"We're concerned about the ability of switches and routers to keep up," Sidgmore said.

The company that figures out the router challenge will likely be a start-up company backed by venture capital, he said, a description that fits Torrent.

"The next Cisco is out there waiting to be funded," Sidgmore said.

Mark Warner, who sat on the same panel at the fair, responded: "We do have that next-generation router."

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