Cisco Recalls Switch Modules

Cisco is recalling some 10Base-T Ethernet switching modules for its Catalyst 5000 LAN switches because the boards can short out and disable networks.

The company is recalling about 11,000 -- or 15 percent -- of the 75,000 48-port 10Base-T Ethernet boards currently installed in enterprise networks. These modules fall within a serial number range that Cisco has identified as potentially defective.

Fourteen of these boards have already shorted out, a Cisco spokesman says.

The shorting has been isolated to a copper defect in the module's printed circuit board. The short can cause the module to fail and likely disrupt the operation of the switch in which it is installed, according to a Cisco field notice on Cisco's Web site (http://www.cisco.com/warp/public/770/fn9151_12081999. shtml).

The short will cause the switch's power supplies to go into overcurrent shutdown, thereby cutting off power to the switch, the field notice states. The short creates smoke, but no fire or sparks. The failure may also cause damage to the switch backplane, rendering the switch inoperable.

Cisco is urging customers to replace affected boards with 48-port 10Base-T switching modules that do not fall within the serial number range associated with the recalled modules. Should a short occur, Cisco is urging customers to replace the entire switch in which the affected module resides. Cisco is offering free replacement hardware and software, the spokesman says.

Cisco customer PeopleSoft is using the potentially defective modules but so far has not been affected by the short. The company plans to replace the modules with other 48-port 10Base-T boards as part of an overall network upgrade program, says Stan Christensen, senior network engineer at the Pleasanton, California, software company. "We're upgrading some of our older cards so we decided to go ahead and evaluate how many [defective modules] are out there and just go ahead and swap them out," Christensen says. "We've not been impacted at all, and we actually have a pretty decent number of those cards."

Reports surfaced last week that Cisco fired the contract manufacturer of the 10Base-T modules. But a company spokesman denies that.

"We didn't fire them; we took them off the certified list and are working with them to get them recertified," the spokesman says. He declined to name the manufacturer, which was recertified late this week.

The spokesman says the recall will not materially affect Cisco's earnings for the second quarter of fiscal 2000. He declined to state how much the episode will cost the company.

"It's insignificant enough that it's not going to be a reported item," he says.

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