Networking giant Cisco was at the centre of controversy after the findings of a federally funded research group suggested a router flaw is responsible for much Internet congestion.
The row blew up on publication of an online article by the US-based 'Electronic Engineering Times', which inferred that inherent flaws in routers from Cisco and other manufacturers were responsible for congestion among the Internet?s 3,000-plus autonomous systems. Cisco supplies over 85 per cent of the routers on which the Internet runs.
The debate centres on evidence thrown up by the Routing Arbiter Project, undertaken by Merit, a federally funded networking research group. The project found that routing instability has been occuring at network access points in 30-second intervals. This, the researchers claim, proves that the problems are due to system flaws rather than random events such as people misconfiguring routers or rats chewing through telephone lines.
Bill Norton, Internet engineering manager at Merit, played down the 'EE Times' article but was unable to discount the fact that flaws in Cisco implementations may be contributing to some extra withdrawals or glitches in Internet access. ?The recently noticed 30-second periodicity to updates tends to suggest a systematic problem in infrastructure,? said Norton. ?This may be a widespread problem with leased lines, common configuration errors, bugs in router software or theoretical problems in the routing protocols themselves. There are an awful lot of withdraw announcements out there,? he added. And there are differing opinions on how much of a problem all these extra withdrawals pose for the Internet.
Cisco executives were unavailable to comment on the situation but a statement issued by the company was defensive. It said ?the topic raised in the 'EE Times' story is a non-issue. The so-called flaw has never been cited by a Cisco customer as causing a problem, and Cisco engineers were never able to duplicate any performance problems during extensive modelling."
Chris Champion, an Internet analyst at the Yankee Group, said that router flaws may be a contributing factor to slowdown and blockages on the Internet but the main factor hampering a lot of consumer use is that the pipes just aren?t big enough.
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