Cisco blames comic radiation for router failure

the Cisco kidNetworking giant Cisco has come up with a novel reason why its some of its routers were less than 100 per cent – cosmic radiation.

A Cisco bug report addressing “partial data traffic loss” on the company’s ASR 9000 Series routers contends that a “possible trigger is cosmic radiation causing SEU soft errors.”

A reader of Reddit’s networking section asked if anyone had seen ‘cosmic radiation’ as a cause for software errors in a bug report before?  Since the fix was to reload the line card, how on earth does that stop the radiation of distant stars stuffing up your router?

Some readers confirmed that cosmic radiation might be a thing, but its “gotten a bad rep as it’s not well explained and it’s not the be-all and end-all of outages.”

However most people thought that it was rubbish as cosmic radiation does not home in on a specific part of the router. It would also hit the control plane and other parts. ECC memory tends to make this a non-issue.

Cisco said that it has conducted extensive research, dating back to 2001, on the effects cosmic radiation can have on its service provider networking hardware, system architectures and software designs. Despite being rare, as electronics operate at faster speeds and the density of silicon chips increases, it becomes more likely that a stray bit of energy could cause problems that affect the performance of a router or switch.

Cisco wrote a  blog about the topic  in January 2012. In an effort to minimize the impact of radiation from “Single Event Upsets” (SEUs), it wanted to redesign our technology with custom silicon chips and software, and adopt protocols that use resiliency features.