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Cisco to open bandwidth

The networking company keeps a step ahead of competitors with a bandwidth increase for routers.

Cisco Systems (CSCO) is making every effort to keep its router hardware on the cutting edge and stay a step ahead of its rivals in increasingly competitive switching technology.

The San Jose, California-based networking giant announced significant bandwidth increases for its bread-and-butter 4500 and 4700 access routers, taking its processor modules up to transmission speeds of 52 mbps, a sixfold increase.

The High Speed Serial Interface (HSSI) Network Processor Module, available now for $6,000, allows routers to communicate with switching hardware at the same speed.

Critics claim that the origins of the network bottlenecks that administrators face are tied to use of routers in their network, not speedy switches.

A router includes software "tables" that analyze every packet transmitted through the hardware. A switch analyzes packets, but not to the same finite degree.

Cisco is readying what is being dubbed the Big Fast Router to carry data at speeds of more than 30 gigabits per second. Switching advocates want to minimize the use of routers on the network by increasing the intelligence of the switch.

The HSSI module was previously targeted at Cisco's enterprise 7000 series routers, but the company has brought the technology to the midrange to allow customers to upgrade their existing equipment. Cisco officials said more than 175,000 4000 series routers have been sold worldwide.

"Their just beefing up the possibilities for the 4000 line and repositioning them for the regional ISP and carrier space," noted Craig Johnson, principal analyst for Current Analysis. "It's a normal shift [of high-speed technology] down the food chain."

Cisco Systems also announced new interfaces for its 7200 series router and LightStream 1010 ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) switch. The new modules allow customers to use routers as the backbone for ATM switches, condensing voice, video, and data traffic in a manner that is similar to an access concentrator.

The modules--due in June for the 7200 and available now for the 1010--are targeted at the Internet service provider and carrier markets.