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Cisco expects product failures to increase over the years

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February 6, 2017

Cisco, the world's largest and supposedly most reliable networking equipment maker has stunned the IT industry today.

The company has issued an immediate warning that an electronic component used in the various versions of its routing, optical networking, security and switch products prior to November 16, 2016 is unreliable.

Cisco is warning system and network administrators that its equipment could fail in the next year and a half, rendering affected hardware permanently inoperable.

"Although the Cisco products with this component are currently performing normally, we expect product failures to increase over the years, beginning after the unit has been in operation for approximately 1 1/2 year," Cisco said in its product advisory.

"Once the hardware component has failed, the system will stop functioning, will not boot, and isn't recoverable," Cisco asserted.

And without telling names, Cisco said that the clock-signal-generating component is also used by other companies as well. There's a possibility that similar notices of this sort might come from other networking vendors as well in the coming weeks.

Cisco has said today that it learned about the issue in late November and has worked with the component supplier to fix the faulty part. As a result, currently shipping products are not affected, but their earlier versions are.

For customers with affected products under warranty or covered by service contracts through November 16, 2016, Cisco intends to provide replacement products. It is prioritizing replacements for those who have been operating the affected products the longest, because of the correlation between operation time and component failure.

Cisco insists this isn't a recall, rather it's a proactive hardware replacement. The company also said that while the component maker indicated failures will become more likely after 18 months, it expects it will take three years of runtime before its products show a larger spike in failures.

In its product advisory, Cisco specifically declines to identify the supplier that made the faulty part, or other affected vendors. And Cisco also declined to do so in response to a request from us for further information.

"Cisco strives to deliver technologies, products and services that exceed customers' expectations, and meet rigorous quality and customer experience standards," a company spokesperson asserted in an email.

"We became aware of an issue related to a clock signal component manufactured by one supplier. We have worked with the supplier to resolve the issue, and we're providing information and support for our customers."

Network engineer Tony Mattke said that rumors about ISR 4331 router issues and a possible recall have been circulating for several months.

"Many of us have received several phone calls at this time from our account managers. While some of us, myself included, have been left in the dark, this is troubling considering how many Cisco products are out in the field."

It looks like the faulty electronic component at the heart of the matter is an Intel Atom C-2000 system-on-chip that Cisco uses in its equipment.

The buggy processor can fail to produce a clock signal required to drive the whole networking device, we are told.

Source: Cisco.


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