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Routing

Cisco Gets Bricked

4:50 PM -- Router vendors expect to face low-cost competition in the long run. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has mentioned this for years, usually citing Asian vendors as the future source. (See Chinese Competitors Chew at Cisco.)

But commodity enterprise routers are coming from a more universal place: commodity hardware. Vyatta Inc. is making a business out of PC-based routers, using software from the Extensible Open-Source Router Platform (XORP). (See XORP Goes Live.)

Now there's Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), which has shown it can build gigabit-class routers out of servers. The idea, called "router bricks," comes from Intel's lab in Berkeley, and its ingredients are 10-Gbit/s Ethernet links; open-source software called Click, originally developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ; and servers based on multicore Nehalem processors.

Why would you do this? As eWeek reported yesterday, it's one way to make use of servers that are out of commission -- or that are new but not being put to work yet.

InformationWeek's Alex Wolfe got wind of the idea back in November, during an interview with Intel CTO Justin Rattner. He described the research as the result of a simple what-if proposition: "What if we could do the bulk of networking using standard server hardware, and essentially routing becomes a software application?"

Routing becoming a software application. For data-center routers it seems likely, and I would expect the idea to seep into telecom, too. (Not core routers at first, but on the edges.) The seeds of low-cost router competition could bear fruit soon.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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