Y2K fallout is affecting Cisco

Though Y2K passed by with nary a New Year’s blowout, the millennium bug’s effects are still making their presence felt in the enterprise networking industry, says Eric Thomson, a principal analyst at Gartner Group/Dataquest’s office in Raleigh, N.C.

Case in point: Cisco Systems Inc.’s recent Layer 3 enhancements to its ATM switching product portfolio, including its Catalyst 8500 and LightStream 1010 series switches. According to Thomson, Cisco’s aim to improve the connections between Ethernet-based LANs and ATM WANs and metropolitan area networks is based upon the amount of money service providers spent on circuit-switched ATM equipment before December 31, 1999.

Thomson said the equipment is too expensive for companies to scrap in favour of packet switched gear, which analysts expect will replace circuit-switched cores within the next 10 years.

“ATM is still part of a lot of the infrastructure,” said Thomson. “And for Cisco to continue to play in the wide area (network) or service provider spaces, they’ve got to maintain their ATM strategy.”

At the same time, Thomson said, Cisco must also address the fact that customers are in need of technology that will allow them to build hybrid multiservice networks, using frames and cells.

“So (Cisco’s) trying to merge the Layer 3 to ATM and marry the two technologies because so many customers are going through that right now,” Thomson said. “They’re going from an Ethernet IP network to an ATM network to get across the wide area, so it behoves them to have the equipment to do that today.”

ATM offers the quality of service in delivering combined video, voice and data traffic that Ethernet cannot, Thomson added. But he expects that to change once 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) hits the market some time in the next year.

Included among Cisco’s new hardware features are two-port GigE interface modules for the Catalyst 8540, which offer features such as wire-speed routing, integrated access control lists (ACLs), and capacity for up to 256,000 routing table entries. Also available on the 8540 is a packet-over-SONET (PoS) uplink.

An ATM Router Module (ARM) for routing between ATM and Layer 3 interfaces will be offered on both the Catalyst 8510 MSR and Cisco’s LightStream 1010 switches. As well, both the 8510 and 1010 switches will be equipped with ACL interface modules.

Suggested prices for the new features range from US$2,000 for the ACL daughtercards for the Catalyst 8510 and LightStream 1010 switches to almost US$40,000 for a PoS uplink module.

Cisco said its new switch enhancements constitute the first of many steps it will be taking to improve its Layer 3-to-ATM product family. The company said future releases will include updates to IP multicast features, multi-protocol label switching (MPLS)/virtual private network (VPN) solutions, interworking of IP class of service with ATM quality of service, and enhanced voice capabilities.

Visit www.cisco.com for more details.