Cisco's new era in router availability

Military users 'don't want any hourglasses on the screen,' they want instant response, former Defense Department CIO John Stenbit said yesterday at the Washington rollout of Cisco Systems Inc.'s fastest-ever, 92-Tbps Carrier Routing System-1.

'DOD could already use 92 Tbps today,' said Stenbit, whose CIO replacement, Francis Harvey, still awaits Senate confirmation.

'It would have been nice if [Cisco's] announcement had come before the procurement' of the Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion. GIG-BE will upgrade 100 fixed locations to 10 Gbps via switched optical connections.

Bandwidth 'is absolutely not close to the requirements' in Iraq, he said, and the shortage will worsen when DOD's visionary 'smart pull' of situational information replaces the current, limited 'smart push' to warfighters.

'Lots of people watch and try to synthesize all the information,' he said, 'but it doesn't work very well to find the bad guys. For smart pull, you need to know where everybody is.

'We used 10 times as much bandwidth last year' as in the 1991 Gulf War, Stenbit said. 'The difference is enormous when you're in control of the information you want. A pilot will know which 20 places he could choose to bomb. It changes the information flow from top down to bottom up.'

Cisco president and CEO John Chambers said in a video broadcast that the CRS-1, built with 40-Gbps IBM application-specific integrated circuits called Silicon Packet Processors, represents a new era of 100 percent router availability.

Hardware 'extensions will not work at the level you expect' when networking infrastructure is growing by 500 percent per year in some areas, he said. 'You have to design the hardware and software from the beginning for continuous operation.

'You put in a high-end router and don't touch it for 15 or 20 years' except to scale up with programmable processors and modular software for new technologies, Chambers said. 'You put the technology into the ports to handle denial of service attacks without human intelligence.'

Cisco officials demonstrated a CRS-1 handling four-site transmission of 4,000 simulated Apple iTunes music downloads, 125,000 simulated online gamers, 2,500 television streams, 1,000 voice over IP phone conversations and 1 million Web browsers. The carrier for the four sites in the San Francisco area was MCI Inc.

Outgoing Transportation Security Administration CIO Patrick Schambach and others questioned whether enough security, such as partitioning, was built into the CRS-1. Cisco officials responded that the packet processors can inspect each packet individually.

But Schambach said carriers, not users, should be the ones to deal with computer worms and denial of service attacks. 'In five years,' he said, 'viruses should be history'like train robberies.'

The convergence of IP voice, video and data 'hit our organization exactly when we needed it,' he said. 'We're actually doing it' to keep airlines, airports and other transportation elements in the loop.

'We need to pull the workforce and management information back and have common practices and policies,' he said. 'We conducted 90,000 learning sessions online last month. For identity management, IPv6 and radio-frequency IDs will cause huge information flows.'

But, he added, 'The killer technology for TSA is explosives detection. TSA needs on-screen resolution' to detect explosives, 'and we need to educate 50,000 people on how to tell what they are'put the smarts in one place.'


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