Cisco to debut new high-end router

In an event marking the company's 20th anniversary, Cisco Systems Inc. tomorrow will unveil a new high-end router designed for carrier-class networks, according to published reports.

Observers said the new product, known by its code name HFR, for "huge fast router", will give Cisco a boost in the market for core routers, which form the backbone of the Internet and other large-scale networks. But they also pointed out that other companies have sold similar products for years.

Officials for San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco refused to comment.

In December, Cisco was beaten out for the router portion of the Defense Department's Global Information Grid Bandwidth Expansion contract. Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Juniper Networks Inc. grabbed the $150 million router business, while Cisco won the right to supply the Defense Department with optical networking equipment.

At the time, analysts said Cisco didn't have the high-performance core routers necessary to compete for carrier-class business like GIG-BE. The company's enterprise and edge routers, which handle data as it moves away from a network's high-speed backbone, are prevalent in government installations.

With the introduction of its new router, Cisco aims to reassert itself in the high-end router game. The company still dominates the overall market, but its share of high-end router sales has slipped from 70 percent to 65 percent, according to San Jose, Calif.-based Infonetics Research Inc.

Experts also pointed out that Cisco is still playing catch-up when it comes to core routers.

"While Cisco's [router] appears to bring Cisco close to parity with Juniper in terms of a high-end offering, we believe that Cisco is late to the market," analyst Erik Suppiger of San Francisco-based Pacific Growth Equities wrote in a report to investors.

According to reports, the new router will support 640 Gbps in a single chassis and incorporate clustering technology, which makes it easier for customers to add capacity as they need it. Juniper's T640 router, which also supports 640 Gbps, has been out for two years.

In addition, the product will include a new modular operating system that could enhance the reliability of its products. Cisco's current software, the Internetwork Operating Systems, is considered the Windows of networking equipment because so many routers and switches run it.

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