Cisco fixes switch/Windows XP problem that hit Xerox network

By Carol Sliwa, Computerworld |  Operating Systems

Cisco Systems Inc. today confirmed that there was an incompatibility between its Catalyst 5000 switch and the beta-test release of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP operating system, but the networking giant said it has resolved the glitch.

Ed Chapman, Cisco's director of enterprise product marketing, said the problem related to "the way the switch and Windows XP interacted with each other" on a network with regard to IEEE 802.1x security features. Xerox Corp. reported the glitch to Cisco after the incompatibility caused network troubles at some of its California facilities, although Xerox didn't publicly identify Cisco as the maker of the unspecified hardware that was responsible for the incident.

Xerox was the only company that alerted Cisco to the situation, Chapman said. He added that Cisco has developed new software that can be downloaded from its Web site and installed on Catalyst 5000 devices to resolve the incompatibility between the switch and the Windows XP beta release.

Users also can reconfigure the Catalyst 5000's software in order to allow Windows XP to operate normally on networks built around the switch, according to Chapman. Alternatively, he added, companies can implement a workaround to change the Windows XP configurations on PCs that are running the beta code.

"There are no hardware issues," Chapman said, adding that the incompatibility problem related to the software on the switch and that no new hardware has to be installed to fix things. "We truly view this as a non-issue," he said. "The [problem] was found in normal testing of the product, and I'm glad it was found prior to a major release of [Windows XP]."

The commercial version of Windows XP is scheduled to ship in the second half of the year. The beta code had been installed by some Xerox employees in violation of a company policy prohibiting unauthorized use of software, and a spokeswoman at the Stamford, Conn.-based company said the incompatibility caused an "isolated network outage."

Xerox said Windows XP wasn't to blame for the network problems, but it reminded employees in an internal newsletter distributed last week that they're not permitted to install software programs on their computers without approval. Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at market research firm IDC in Framingham, Mass., said unauthorized installations by end users regularly cause technical headaches for IT departments.

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