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Cisco module melds routing and switching

The networking giant announces plans to offer switching and routing functions with a single new routing module for the popular Catalyst switch line.

    The marriage of simple network switching functions with complex routing in a single box gained legitimacy today when networking kingpin Cisco Systems joined the emerging market, announcing plans to offer a routing module for its popular Catalyst switch line.

    As previously reported by CNET's NEWS.COM, Cisco will ship a Route Switch Module (RSM) for its 5000 and 5500 line of switches for connecting multiple sites in a campus network environment.

    By adding a routing module that slides into the 5000 and 5500 switching chassis, the boxes gain 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 result is that the routing functions are optimized, and switching traffic is made easier because all the necessary components reside within a single unit.

    Delivery of the RSM module comes in the wake of 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).

    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. Cisco officials claims the RSM can speed data at speeds of more than one million packets per second.

    The company also announced enhancements to its NetFlow switching software, which will cater to enterprise networks and Internet service providers (ISP).

    Cisco will support IOS NetFlow in its high-end line of routers. The new software allows large customers to offer Quality of Service (QoS) enhancements and includes two new applications--the FlowCollector and FlowAnalyzer--to measure network traffic.

    The RSM is available immediately for $19,995 for the 5000 and 5500 chassis. Cisco's IOS NetFlow software for the 7500 line of routers and 7000 line with Route Switch Processors (RSP) is available immediately for $5,000. Similar software for the 7200 line of routers is also available immediately for $3,400.

    The FlowCollector and FlowAnalyzer NetFlow administration tools, priced at $3,000 and $2,495 respectively, will be available in August.