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Cisco plans Big Fast Router

Cisco Systems will extend the capacity of its router line starting early next year, embracing speeds of 30 gbps and up.

Cisco Systems (CSCO) will extend the capacity of its router line starting early next year, embracing 30-gbps (gigabits per second) speeds and higher with announcements that will extend through the spring.

The increased speeds are intended to blunt the incorporation of IP (Internet Protocol) switching technologies in corporate networks as well as offering Cisco users a migration path when they make upgrade decisions regarding their routers. Competing vendors claim that the Cisco router, while maintaining a lion's share of the market, is not able to handle the large data loads of the networked age.

But Cisco officials hope to make the case for the high-end router, code-named BFR, as a general purpose box that can speed information to users on a corporate network and can also be customized by adding software modules, such as Cisco IOS (Internetworking Operating System) capabilities.

"Users are integrating both switching and routing," said Richard Palmer, director of marketing for Cisco's core products business unit. "They're thinking in terms of topologies." With faster speeds, Cisco officials hope users will continue to think of the router as a central component of those network topologies.

Cisco will introduce the 30-gbps router within two months, according to Chase Bailey, principal technologist for business development at Cisco. The company is also looking at products that take those speeds close to 100 gbps, officials said.

The router will switch data at rates based on the synchronous optical network (SONET) physical layer network standard for fiber-optic transmissions, supporting links of up to 2.5 gbps (also known as an OC-48 level rate). Sonet is used to define interfaces between network links and devices attached to a network. When a Gigabit Ethernet standard is adopted in 1998, that standard will be incorporated as well.

The router is also expected to incorporate Quality of Service features to address one of the primary benefits of another growing high-speed technology, ATM (asynchronous transfer mode).

The gigabit rates will extend Cisco's 7500 line of routers. In a separate move, the company is also expected to extend its Catalyst 5000 switching line to include a variety of options in one chassis, such as ATM and local area network modules.