April 16, 2001, 11:11 AM — IN KEEPING WITH its recently-announced plans to develop products for low-latency applications, such as VOIP (voice over IP) and streaming multimedia, Cisco Systems has unveiled a set of switching technologies that could improve network QoS (quality of service).
The software, which comes in the form of a free, downloadable upgrade to Cisco's Internetwork Operating System (IOS), will enable network administrators to speed up and more easily manage MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) traffic. In this way, Cisco expects that enterprises will secure better SLAs (service-level agreements) from their service providers.
In addition, Cisco officials stressed that the new MPLS features can be used to build point-to-point data tunnels with stringent bandwidth and delay guarantees. Cisco said the guaranteed bandwidth services can be deployed across multiple platforms.
Paul Strauss, an analyst at IDC, in Framingham, Mass., said the benefit to enterprises will be the provisioning of virtual leased lines. "Service providers can provide VPNs now, but only on a best-efforts basis," he said. "You never know how much bandwidth you're going to get. But with this technology, you can guarantee the bandwidth, and that's the only way to have a leased line."
Many analysts expect competitors such as Lucent Technologies, Nortel Networks, Juniper Networks, and Avici Systems to follow Cisco's lead. Tere Bracco, an analyst at Current Analysis, in Sterling, Va., said some of Cisco's competitors already have similar products. For example, Lucent's SpringTide family of switches allows companies to deploy "intelligent" networks that can prioritize traffic, and Nortel's Shasta line can aggregate and deliver customized services. But "Cisco is taking the lead," according to Strauss, "and everybody else will have to do it."