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Communications Tech: ATM networking tech explained

When listening to IT experts it can get confusing when the term ATM is used. It may be used in every other sentence during talks or discussions on video-conferencing, interactive presentations, distance learning, medical imaging, workflow tasks, CAD/CAM, LAN internetworking, disaster recovery or service internetworking. Surely they aren't talking about cashpoints, so what else is hidden behind these three letters?
In the past, separate networks and platforms supported each application: for example, Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN) used voice switches for voice applications, X.25 and Frame Relay networks for packet data transmission, Internet networks for packet data transmissions using routers, and cable networks for video transmission. ATM technology provides an integrated solution to meet all networking needs. By using a unified ATM platform, customers can use a common switching platform with an integrated high-speed transmission facility for all voice, data and video applications.


Peter Eapkovie

When listening to IT experts it can get confusing when the term ATM is used. It may be used in every other sentence during talks or discussions on video-conferencing, interactive presentations, distance learning, medical imaging, workflow tasks, CAD/CAM, LAN internetworking, disaster recovery or service internetworking. Surely they aren't talking about cashpoints, so what else is hidden behind these three letters?

In the past, separate networks and platforms supported each application: for example, Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN) used voice switches for voice applications, X.25 and Frame Relay networks for packet data transmission, Internet networks for packet data transmissions using routers, and cable networks for video transmission. ATM technology provides an integrated solution to meet all networking needs. By using a unified ATM platform, customers can use a common switching platform with an integrated high-speed transmission facility for all voice, data and video applications.

ATM is networking technology that uses packets of fixed length (cells) and uses logical connections to provide delivery of voice, data, and video over the same local or wide area network (WAN) within pre-defined QoS parameters. Traffic flows over pre-established virtual connections. ATM technology defines multiple classes of service, allowing the customer to transmit a variety of traffic types from the same access port, while maintaining critical performance criteria by application.

The high-speed service allows companies to reduce their network costs while adding flexibility to meet mission-critical requirements, and because of its characteristics, ATM is expected to handle an increasing volume of international traffic over the next 10 years.

ATM's highly standardised support for different classes of service is the most unique and important feature of the service, and it sets it apart from other communication technologies while providing the following benefits:

Bandwidth on Demand - With ATM, applications may send traffic either in bursts or at a fixed rate. The customer uses only the bandwidth an application requires. ATM allows the network to be tailored to the application, rather than forcing the application to fit the network.

High Speeds - Since their size is fixed, ATM cells can be switched at extremely high speeds with very little overhead processing, as the switching action takes place in the hardware. ATM allows for the kind of high-speed networking that is necessary demanded by emerging visualisation and multimedia technologies.

Scalability - ATM provides scalability both in terms of distance and speed. ATM is used in local area, campus, or wide area applications. ATM also handles a wide range of interfaces, varying from 1.5/2.0 Mbps to very high optical carrier rates.

Common LAN/WAN Protocol - ATM standards describe a uniform cell format independent of rates, framing or physical transport facilities. Consequently, many different networks, such as LANs, switches and public networks, can use the same format.

Application Transparency - ATM technology provides application transparency by statistically multiplexing the cells from multiple independent applications and then transmitting them over the same physical facility.

Virtual Private Networking - As a virtual private networking service, ATM provides connectivity, reliability, and resource efficiency benefits. Users have the capability to define meshed and partially meshed logical networks or to define full connectivity between their locations. These logical connections have inherent reliability, being able to automatically reroute around network failures through alternate network facilities.

Peter Eapkovie is Accounts Manager at Global One Communications s.r.o. Comments and questions can be sent to him at: peter.capkovic@globalone.net

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