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Cisco router emerges from vapor

Interop The long-awaited, next-generation router from Cisco Systems finally makes a public appearance under the moniker "12000."

Interop LAS VEGAS, Nevada--The next-generation router from Cisco Systems (CSCO), long-awaited hardware intended to alleviate Internet bottlenecks and silence critics and rivals, finally made a public appearance on the show floor here at Spring Networld+Interop 97.

Originally dubbed the Big Fast Router (BFR) and then the Gigabit Switch Router (GSR), the finally named 12000 line has been rumored to be in the works since last fall, about the same time that competing strategies from 3Com, Ascend Communications, and upstart Ipsilon Networks started to gain steam in the press. Cisco's routers are thought by some to be causing some of the Internet's woes, since over 80 percent of traffic on the public network runs through its equipment.

Cisco executives downplayed those problems and promoted the 4-slot and 12-slot 12000 models as next-generation boxes that may be necessary only for large Internet service providers. The routers' appearance at the show was reported by CNET's NEWS.COM last week. "We are clearly qualified to address those problems #&91;of Internet congestion#&93;," said Dale Boehm, product marketing manager for the company's ISP business unit. "They certainly have been addressed in the GSR."

Analysts have said the next-generation routers from Cisco, which can route data packets at up to 60 gbps, needed to make an appearance soon in order to prove their existence. Though the products won't ship until later in the year, customers looking for alternatives may now wait until they can get their hands on the Cisco gear. The appearance may also at least temporarily hush some critics who insist that a routing architecture cannot scale to the needs of the Internet.

Cisco stressed that the popular 7500 line of routers, currently at the high end of its product line, will still be enhanced and recommended to many accounts. The line will soon include new processors, the highly publicized Tag Switching capability for IP-based networks, and a feature called Express Forwarding.

Express Forwarding offloads data crunching from the central processor by allowing the routing tables that provide the destination intelligence within the box to be distributed to interface cards. Both the 7500 and 12000 line will also include Gigabit Ethernet modules.

The 12000 will enter field trials this summer, with initial shipments expected in the fall, according to the company. The two models 12004 and 12012 will start at $20,000 for a 5-gbps nonredundant box.

Separately, Cisco announced a deal to provide up to $1 billion in hardware to GTE for its wide area network this week. Also, Cisco reached a reseller agreement with Wang Laboratories, a billion-dollar worldwide consulting and services business.