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New Cisco router to unclog ISPs

The new 12000 Gigabit Switch Router line is the networking giant's answer to nagging issues about its router hardware.

Networking giant Cisco Systems (CSCO) next month will ship a long-awaited router line intended to unclog congested Internet service provider (ISP) networks.

The new 12000 Gigabit Switch Router (GSR) line--previously known as the Big Fast Router (BFR) in its development phase--is the company's answer to nagging issues about the performance of its current router hardware. Analysts estimate Cisco routers handle about 80 percent of Web traffic.

The new hardware, which the company says can speed data at up to 60 gbps (gigabits per second), is augmented by a caching server that the company also announced today. By storing Web pages locally, the caching server allows popular Internet content to be delivered more swiftly to users. The Cisco Cache Engine ships this month for $30,000.

As reported by CNET's NEWS.COM in May, the new GSR line includes four-slot and twelve-slot models and supports IP-over SONet (synchronous optical networking), ATM (asynchronous transfer mode), and Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, among others. The software includes service enhancements as well as support for emerging multimedia streaming technology.

The new router line is not intended to replace Cisco's 7500 routers--the company's bread-and-butter product line for enterprise networks--according to company officials. The GSR targets networks where current routers are reaching their capacity. GSR pricing starts at $14,900, with software licenses going for $7,500.

Sprint is one telecommunications firm that will adopt the GSR boxes. The company says it will increase bandwidth by 400 percent using the new Cisco gear for an OC-12 packet-over-SONet Internet network.

The router upgrade, along with the new caching technology, could up the ante for Cisco competitors like Ascend Communications, which has made waves with a similar next-generation router.

The Cache Engine is designed to store Web pages locally so users don't have to procure redundant pages across the Internet. Targeted at ISPs and corporations, the hardware and software box--based on an Intel Pentium processor--can be combined to offer a 32-way "cache farm" that can support up to 500,000 users and store about 25 million Web pages, the company said.