Cisco aims to add oomph to IP nets

Cisco Systems Inc. demonstrated a few unannounced products at ComNet 2001 last week, designed to let users implement secure, high-performance VPNs and more tightly meld IP and ATM WANs.

The company said it also expects to ship a 10G bit/sec Ethernet module for its Catalyst 6500 LAN switch in the second quarter, a year before the 10G standard is complete.

The products, expected to be announced this quarter, are intended to raise the integration ante by letting users meld separate networks or separate IP services over one network. For instance, the VPN module runs on routers that are equipped for voice over IP, which basically means users can integrate their voice over IP and VPNs over the same network.

Cisco's booth showcased a VPN hardware module for the company's 2600 and 3600 series routers. The module increases the performance of software-based VPN encryption for the 2600 and 3600 by a factor of 10, Cisco sources say.

The VPN module occupies a single slot in the Cisco 2600 or 3600 chassis. The module performs encryption and IP Security-related tasks in hardware, freeing the router's main processor to perform other router, voice-over-IP and firewall functions.

The module encrypts data using the Data Encryption Standard (DES) and Triple-DES algorithms. When equipped with the VPN module, the 2600 and 3600 routers will support as many as 2,000 encrypted tunnels at speeds up to 24M bit/sec, Cisco sources say.

The sources say it is shipping now and costs about US$1,500.

For melding IP and ATM WANs, Cisco showed the Universal Router Module (URM) for its IGX 8400 WAN switch. The URM is designed to provide native support for Cisco IOS-based IP services, including voice over IP, on the IGX 8400.

The product is targeted at ATM WAN enterprise users looking to support voice and data integration on a WAN connecting branch sites to corporate headquarters. It brings support of the H.323 packetized multimedia standard to the IGX, which means it should swap packetized voice and video with non-Cisco gear.

URM lets users peer the IGX with other Cisco IOS-based switches and routers for tighter integration of ATM and IP WAN infrastructures. This alleviates the need to run parallel IP and ATM networks, Cisco says.

The URM features two voice-enabled T-1 or E-1 ports for connecting to PBXs or the public switched telephone network, and two Fast Ethernet ports for LAN connections. The URM interoperates with Lucent Definity, Nortel Networks' Meridian and SL-1, ROLM/Siemens HICOM, NEC NEAX 2400, Toshiba Strada DK424, Mitel 2000SX and Ericsson PBXs, Cisco says.

It supports up to 60 voice channels, and up to 30 modules can be stuffed into an IGX switch for a total of 1,800 voice channels.

The URM sports a Reduced Instruction Set Computing processor with up to 85K packet/sec of switching performance. It also has a 155M bit/sec connection to the IGX backplane and a slot for additional processing or hardware acceleration cards.

Pricing and availability of the URM was unavailable at press time.

The Cisco booth also housed a 10G bit/sec Ethernet module for the Catalyst 6509 switch. A Cisco product manager at ComNet said the company expects to ship the module in the second quarter.

That would be about a year ahead of the 10G bit/sec Ethernet standard, which is expected to be finalized next spring.

"That's pretty much in line with what we were forecasting" for vendor shipments, says Seamus Crehan, an analyst at Dell' Oro Group. "There's a lot of interest and anticipation for this market and this technology" for next-generation applications.

Some Cisco users have a mild interest in 10G bit/sec Ethernet at this early stage.

"I spoke to the product manager of the 6500 line at ComNet and saw the blade, but it wasn't hooked up to anything," says a Cisco customer from a Fortune 100 technology company in New England. "My interest at this point is more toward the maturity of the product. I can't say that we're dying for the bandwidth at the moment."

At ComNet, the card was situated in a Network Equipment Building Standards-compliant Catalyst 6509 but was inoperable. Cisco displayed this card as a technology demonstration last May in a 100-meter switch-to-switch link between Catalyst 6509s.

Last May, Cisco wouldn't speak about the card in future product terms, saying it was a technology demonstration only.

But the module will be targeted at Gigabit Ethernet aggregation and metropolitan-area dark fiber services, and as an interface between a service provider point of presence and an interexchange carrier OC-192 SONET WAN.

Pricing for the Cisco module was unavailable, but Dell'Oro forecasts per-port pricing ofUS$9,500 for 10G bit/sec Ethernet this year, dropping to $3,585 per port in 2005.

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