Cisco founder wants to go faster, farther

Cisco founder Len Bosack can't wait to get to 200G. But it seems he might be alone in his anxiety.

Bosack is now running XKL, a maker of compact optical access systems for enterprises that include a Cisco CLI for configuration. The benefit and appeal of XKL's Darkstar product is that it has a familar interface to the router people, and that it doesn't require an optical engineer to install, operate and maintain it.

"It gets along with a router and switch network," Bosack said during an interview at the recent Interop trade show in Las Vegas. Darkstar is for companies in campus environments looking for a more cost effective and efficient high-bandwidth alternative than leasing multiple DS-3s. 

And high bandwidth is where XKL is taking Darkstar, but the 100G efforts underway at the IEEE and that everyone else seems to be striving for are short-sighted, according to Bosack.

"There is going to be a future and it doesn't stop at 100G," he said at Interop. "If you use the IEEE scheme it will do what they say and nothing more. It doesn't go further or faster. New schemes are required and we already know how. We think we can get 200G across the country."

Progress towards 200G is being hamstrung by optical components vendors, Bosack says.

"The time is mostly consumed with the microwave and optical component vendors convincing them to build something that's got a future instead of, ‘Well, we got a spec from the committee, let's just build to that.' I can't tell you how many times we have to explain to them that there will be a future."

Bosack says XKL currently has some active programs underway "to go farther and faster," and that we'll see announcements to that effect in short order. 

With regard to enterprise routing, the bedrock of his Cisco baby, Bosack says he doesn't follow the market much anymore. But he does have some ideas for improving the efficiency of BGP in the Internet. He says he has some schemes to improve the reliability and "robustness" of the Internet by allowing BGP to share a little more information with its neighbors than it currently shares.

Such an advancement might allow nodes to improve response times and proactively reroute around congested or disabled links. Bosack says his scheme could allow the Internet to experience a loss of 12% to 15% of its nodes before failure, rather than the 2% node loss that might disable it today.

And speaking of congestion avoidance, XKL has a "full and effective" solution for that as well, Bosack says. But not a product as yet -- that's another future augmentation to XKL's product line.

Suffice it to say, it will be cheaper than what people are paying now to add congestion avoidance features to routers, he says.

"The world is not ready to pay 2x on a router just to keep it from suffering a congestion collapse," Bosack says. (Internet pioneer and Anagran chairman and founder) Larry Roberts is finding that out, I'm afraid. Their current offering is a hard sell. We've done reaserach in that area, we think we have a full and effective solution. But not a product right now."

As for the product right now -- Darkstar -- XKL's finding that to be a long sell. Not only have capital budgets frozen due to the economy, but XKL's customers include government agencies with notoriously long sales cycles.

The US Geological Survey, for example, pushed out an RFP for which XKL is planning to bid to 2012.

"That's who they are and that's how it works," Bosack says. "It takes a while. None (of the other vendors) are going to compete for it because it's too much trouble, but for me they are kind of old friends. You get used to them. But that's the time scale."

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