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Cisco takes on traffic, growth concerns

New technology to be introduced by Cisco this week could increase Internet access throughput by unclogging central router processing on IP networks.

New technology to be introduced by Cisco Systems (CSCO) at this week's Networld+Interop show in Atlanta could greatly increase Internet access throughput by unclogging central router processing on IP (Internet Protocol) networks.

Cisco will introduce an Internetworking Operating System (IOS) Tag Switching technology, offering customers new software that's able to tag frames at the edge of a network so when that frame passes through a central router or switch, the frame is recognized and routed automatically to the appropriate location. The technology essentially enables Layer 2 IP switches to interact with Layer 3 routers, increasing performance and offering integration that's been previously unavailable.

The initial use for this technology is expected to be on the networks of ISPs (Internet service providers), according to Andrew Greenfield, Cisco's director of service provider marketing.

Tag Switching is the latest Cisco move to enable its vast routing infrastructure to interoperate with Layer 2 IP switches. Cisco previously used a software architecture dubbed NetFlow to accomplish this, but NetFlow was only a means to make processing information within the router more efficient. This concept takes the processing burden out of the router and onto Tag Switching-enabled cards.

Tag Switching can be implemented in existing Cisco routers as well as the BPX line of ATM switches from StrataCom, the company purchased by Cisco for $4 billion earlier this year. The Tag Switching software can communicate from switch to router using a new protocol developed by Cisco called a Tag Distribution Protocol.

That protocol has been submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Cisco plans to license the technology to third parties as well.

Customers can use Tag Switching with existing boxes to boost performance, according to Cisco officials. IOS Tag Switching software will be available in Cisco's 7500 line of routers next year at a cost of $5,000. Support for StrataCom's BPX line will follow soon after.

Other announcements planned by Cisco for next week are intended to address performance concerns as corporate networks grow to meet the needs of the Internet era.

The company will increase performance in Cisco's 7500 series routers by a factor of four, according to company officials. Those enhancements include new system processors and new cards for Cisco's Versatile Interface Processors (VIP2). Also on tap are new broadband switching modules (BXM) that let ATM switches manage traffic via application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC) using a technology called Stratm.

The company is also introducing new interfaces that let more bandwidth pass through a single channelized T-3 interface processor card in a router. That allows for more dedicated access at less cost for corporations or ISPs (Internet service providers).

The IOS operating system port means that the BPX ATM switches can support Internet routing.

IOS support in the BPX line will be available by the end of the year. New BXM cards start at $38,000 and will ship within two months.