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Cisco re-thinks Layer 8 networking with green components

Cisco Systems has re-written the rules of networking at the highest level, upgrading traditional Layer 8 technologies with higher-performing, greener counterparts, the company announced at a New York City event.

Cisco has re-written the rules of networking at the highest level, upgrading traditional Layer 8 technologies with higher-performing, greener counterparts, the company announced at a New York City event.

"Traditionally, user-level components are some of the least efficient, with the worst uptime," said Taylor Barnum, Cisco's vice president of marketing. "We've more or less scrapped the current paradigm and re-invented these end points for the twenty-first century."

For networking professionals, Layer 8 problems are a constant source of frustration: Excessive bandwidth consumption, spyware installation, frivolous help desk tickets and frequent emotional outbursts are all common for the organic components of this network layer. However, very little innovation has occurred at this level, even while much of the rest of the network has seen major reliability and throughput performance improvements.

"Part of the problem is that many of the basic components of this equipment, carbon and calcium for example, just aren't very durable," said James Bailey, lead engineer for the ambitious project. He said Cisco's new line of equipment, the T-series, would be based on titanium and coltan, which is better at dissipating heat efficiently.

One of the most highly touted aspects of the announcement was the environmental impact of the new product line. Barnum said the T-series is the "green technology of the millennium."

Cisco even brought in a surprise speaker to legitimize this point: The company revealed that Al Gore, former vice president and presidential candidate, is an early prototype for much of Cisco's work. And while early releases were panned as being stiff and "robotic," Gore said firmware updates had minimized these effects and helped cut his carbon footprint.

"I think it's a tremendous advance, and I'm happy to have been invited in on the ground level," he said, speaking via TelePresence, another Cisco technology he has endorsed. "Now, instead of quick snacks and power naps, I can just plug in and keep working while legacy systems go offline for seven, even eight hours each day."

Al Gore joined Cisco executives in unveiling the company's new slogan: "The Human-Like Network."

Bailey said Cisco has already begun using one of the executive models, the T-1000, internally and has seen dramatic improvements in productivity, although the legacy system's failure rate skyrocketed in a mixed-system environment.

Barnum said the company expects quick adoption of the technology, with a projected assimilation of 95% of end users by 2010. The remaining market resistance, he said, would be crushed a few years later.

Others were a bit more skeptical. "Once again, we see Cisco coming up with some great innovations, but interoperability I think is a key missing component," said John Ringling, a senior analyst with Gartner Inc. "Legacy hardware will still survive for 10, maybe even 15 years."

Ringling also said network managers need to take a close look at total cost of ownership.

"Sure, the initial CapEx outlay may be lower, but when the T-series inevitably overthrows its IT overlords, there is going to be a lot of collateral damage," he said. "Break rooms, data centers … even whole cities will be laid waste. You really need to figure in those facts when you're making a decision about which route to go."

Have a question about this article, or a topic you'd like to see covered? Contact news writer Michael Morisy at And for all those T-series prototypes out there, this is, indeed, an April Fool's piece.

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