ALERT: Fatal Clock Timing Flaw Reaches More Products than Originally Reported

Cisco


Matthew Rodenfels April 18, 2017

Cisco issue issue affecting a wide range of switches, routers, and security appliances

Back in January, Cisco was the first vendor to post a notice to customers about a fatal clock timing problem. The company said it would cause some of its products to fail. Other OEMs have been slower to acknowledge the degree to which their own product lines are affected. Based on recent reporting, it appears this may be an issue affecting a wide range of switches, routers, and security appliances. Here’s what we know.

What harm does the failure do?

The clock component in question is a critical piece of the synchronization mechanism used in scheduling priorities across multiple levels on a given device. Sadly, this is a fatal flaw that causes affected products to die after about 18 months of service. This seems to be a sudden onset issue.

As Cisco puts it in their notice: “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 18 months.”

What is causing the issue?

Cisco declined to reveal which chip in its products was at fault. Several sources, however, have pointed to Intel’s Atom C2000 chip as the most likely culprit. Although Intel is on record as having issues with this system-on-a-chip and promises a fix is in the works, they aren’t commenting specifically on the timetable for that solution.

Which products are affected?

To a great degree, this is still an unknown. Cisco has been the most forthcoming, saying that some of the company’s most widely deployed products have been affected. They include Series 4000 integrated routers, Nexus 9000 series switches, ASA security switches, and the Meraki cloud switches.

Juniper Networks may have at least 13 products in its line of switches and routers that use the same chip. The company released a statement saying they “are aware of an issue related to a component manufactured by a supplier which impacts a limited set of our product line. We are currently working directly with any impacted customers on a swift solution.”

Other OEMs remain closed mouthed. But the Atom C2000 chip, which was expected to revolutionize power consumption, was included in a wide range of products. Dell and HP have neither confirmed nor denied whether they have affected equipment in their line-ups, but many IT insiders believe they do.

So far, only Brocade has come forward to state that the company did not use the faulty component in any of its hardware. A breath of relief there for some customers.

About the Author

Matthew Rodenfels,
During the past 8 years at Park Place, Matthew has carried a variety of roles focusing on technology. Matt’s interests are educating our staff on current technology and trends, reaching solutions between sales and our customers, and learning new technologies.