Cisco Readies Huge Fast Router

On the heels of last week’s revelation of a potential security breach in the form of a code leak, Cisco Systems on Tuesday is expected to unveil a new high-end router for large telecommunications carriers. Code-named HFR (Huge Fast Router), the product will be part of an event to mark the company’s 20-year anniversary.

The new router will be given its official name, expected to be “Carrier Router System-1,” at the event. It will be announced by John Chambers, Cisco president and CEO.

Cisco has been working on the router for four years but has declined to provide details about its progress or any distinguishing features. However, the secrecy surrounding the project will be shed Tuesday when the HFR is demonstrated to press, industry analysts and the investment community. Following the device’s unveiling, a panel of global service providers will discuss the impact of the technology.

Higher Level

The HFR is designed for carrier networks that handle the highest volumes of Internet traffic. When it is released, Cisco likely will be fighting for market share against competitors like Juniper Networks, which has a similar product, the T640.

With newly designed operating software, the HFR is expected to offer capacity of at least 640 gigabits per second. This is the first product that will use the new software, though Cisco has noted that it plans to use that software across its entire switching and routing product lines eventually.

The company’s existing software, its Internetwork Operating System (IOS), has been used to power the company’s products in the past and is widely utilized in service provider networks.

Meeting a Need

Although some analysts have speculated that the HFR will not help Cisco generate more revenue in the near future, and that the company will have a tough time competing with Juniper, Aberdeen Group analyst Peter Kastner told the E-Commerce Times that Cisco has been more than holding its own against competitors.

“They understand the problems to be tackled by routers, and they have the situation well in hand,” he said.

The main challenge the HFR is expected to tackle is growth in Internet traffic volume. Kastner noted that several factors can account for the recent surge in TCP/IP traffic, including a rise in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) use and growing Internet adoption in developing countries.

Because of this surge, routers such as the HFR will be crucial for keeping traffic flowing smoothly. “You have critical Internet intersections,” Kastner said. “That requires the biggest routers that the commercial world can create. That’s where Cisco comes in — and where it has always come in.”

Sneak Thief

Cisco’s announcement of the router comes a week after the company acknowledged that an unspecified amount of its proprietary source code had been stolen. The code turned up on the Internet, where it had been made publicly available.

Gartner analyst John Pescatore told the E-Commerce Times that the release of the code is a potentially serious security problem because Cisco’s switches and other hardware make up a good portion of the Internet backbone. They are also used in most enterprise networks. However, despite the potential for security problems, Pescatore said he does not believe a serious incident will occur as a result.

“This exposure is unlikely to result in a dramatic increase in the number or the severity of malicious-code attacks that occur before patches are released,” he said.

Pescatore added that Cisco should work to reduce the impact of future code exposures by joining the File Signature Database. This initiative, led by Tripwire, IBM, Sun Microsystems and others, aims to create a library of legitimate software products and their signatures.

Trouble Ahead?

Although enterprises may be protected from harm as a result of the reported code leak, Kastner posited that Cisco itself could have difficulties because of the theft.

“Any code posted to the Net gives hackers an opportunity,” Kastner said. Armed with the stolen code, hackers will be able to look for holes and exploit vulnerabilities, he noted.

Indeed, he added, “Cisco will have to redouble their efforts to make sure their routers are secure.”

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