Router Goal: Quick Recovery

IP networks are being improved to recover from failures more quickly and to reduce packet loss.

IP networks, long lacking the high availability of their voice and data counterparts, are being improved to recover from failures more quickly and to reduce packet loss.

Cisco Systems Inc. and Alcatel SA are targeting such deficiencies with new software for their respective routers. While the improvements are being aimed initially at service providers, enterprises can expect the same features to be added to corporate versions of the products by years end.

Cisco is combining nonstop forwarding with stateful switch-over to enable packets to continue to flow with nearly no packet loss, even as a router reverts to a standby processor. That feature, to be available for three service-provider-designed routers next month, will be added to enterprise routers later this year, said Cisco officials, in San Jose, Calif.

Stateful switch-over maintains state information, such as what the router is connected to and the type of connection, and activates a switch-over in a two-processor router where one processor is active and another is on standby.

Alcatel also plans to push improved availability features to enterprise products but provided no time frame.

Enterprise executives are eager for improved availability as their IP networks become critical for everything from applications to voice over IP to the new wave of network-based storage. "The network is most business now, and people rely on it," said Peter Graves, a network designer and president of the Phoenix Cisco User Group, in Mesa, Ariz. "They dont want to see hiccups, and theyre starting to rely on it as they would a regular telephone."

Alcatel this week is announcing the availability of nonstop routing for testing on its 7670 Routing Switch Platform. The Paris company introduced last month its Alcatel Carrier Environment Internet System to provide nonstop routing to eliminate router downtime caused by software upgrades and corrupt routing information. The company plans to add nonstop routing to its 7770 Routing Core Platform by the end of the year.

Cisco last week announced nine upgrades to its IOS (Internetwork Operating System) software as part of its GRIP (Globally Resilient IP) portfolio, which targets "resiliency," or the ability of the network to recover from failures.

The companies initial service provider focus should go a long way toward easing that industrys challenge of integrating frame relay, asynchronous transfer mode and voice traffic onto a single IP infrastructure.

Infonet Services Corp., which operates a Cisco-based IP network for Fortune 2000 customers, plans to upgrade to the new features on Ciscos IOS by the fall, said Joe Fusco, product manager for private IP network services at the El Segundo, Calif., company.

"Its a level of service customers are demanding, and there are penalties if its anything less than 100 percent these days," Fusco said. "From a customer and service provider standpoint, the more resilient you make it, then the faster you recover from faults in the network. And the extent to which you get packet loss to zero [then] applications respond better, and that makes everyone happier."

Ciscos nonstop forwarding and stateful switch-over features will first be offered for the Cisco 12000, 10000 and 7500 routers. The company plans within the year to provide the upgrade for other routers, such as the Cisco 7600 and 6500, that are more common in enterprises, said Charles Goldberg, product line manager for GRIP.

Also next month, Cisco will add features to provide subsecond convergence of routing tables for enterprises using multicast; the ability for service providers to route Multiprotocol Label Switching tunnels around a failed node within 50 ms; quicker convergence of Border Gateway Protocol tables; and better policing of skittish network links.

In the second half of the year will be features to improve the uptime of IP services such as virtual private networking during network faults, to load balance across active and standby WAN links, and to conduct faster recalculations within routers of network routes.

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