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Cisco melds routing and switching

Cisco next week will announce that it will put routing functions and increasingly popular switching hardware in one box.

Cisco Systems (CSCO) next week will join the stampede to meld routing functions with increasingly popular switching hardware.

The company will introduce a Route Switch Module for its recently unveiled Catalyst 5500 switching chassis, according to sources, along with enhancements to its NetFlow switching software that will cater to enterprise networks and Internet service providers (ISP).

Delivery of the module comes after the April announcement of the 5500 Catalyst switch model, a box that can handle typical LAN (local area network) traffic, such as Fast Ethernet and Token Ring, or backbone technologies such as ATM (asynchronous transfer mode).

By adding a routing module that slides into the 5500 switching chassis, the box now has the ability to take selected traffic based on IP (Internet Protocol) and offload the processing function from the router module to various switching boards. The end result is that the routing functions are optimized, and switched traffic is facilitated because all of the components necessary to perform the task are residing within a single box.

Cisco officials declined to comment on unannounced products. Routing speed information was not available.

Xylan and Madge Networks have also staked a claim in this emerging market for combined network gear. Others are expected to soon follow. Bay Networks has chosen to offload IP-based traffic from its routers using a SwitchNode product that can sit in front of the router on a network and direct traffic.

Cisco may confuse customers as it adds sophisticated switching enhancements to its products, according to some industry observers; it may be unclear to a customer what the benefit of a dedicated router is compared to a router residing in a switching chassis.

"They're trying to be everything to everybody," noted one analyst.