Soon, the questions and speculation started pouring in. What could it be? Was it a black market motherboard? A prank gone wrong? Was Dan trying his hand at art college?
After some research, I found a good explanation. Just like any major manufacturer out there, Cisco gives each project a code name while under internal development. It makes it easier to refer to instead of typing a project number out each time, plus if any information about it leaks out before it’s ready, the competition is scratching their heads wondering why you might be working on a new Shire-friendly device.
In this particular case, the 3750 switch was the first in Cisco’s portfolio to use Stackwise technology. According to the very detailed whitepaper found here:
the switch uses a combination of hardware and software to create a ring between all members of the stack in order to emulate the backplane of a chassis switch. During internal testing, this new technology get tagged with the code name Lord of the Rings, which is why you’ll find our little Hobbit friend of the motherboard of your 3750 if you open it up.
And since I can’t get enough of trivia like that, I did some additional digging and came up with some interesting and not-so-interesting code names for other Cisco products:
Cisco GSR 12000 series -> Cisco BFR (Big F***ing Router, or Big Fast Router if you’re in marketing) Supposedly named after the Big F***ing Gun (BFG) from the video game Doom. You can see a picture of the BFR logo on a 12000 linecard here: http://www.kumari.net/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=331
Cisco CRS-1 -> HFR (Huge Fast Router, or Huge F***ing Router depending on who you ask). Named after the Cisco GSR 12000 from above. And yet it needed to be changed to a less specific and more PC acronym. HFR lives on if you look at the software loads for the CRS-1, though. They all start with “hfr”.
Cisco UCS -> “California”. This one is interesting. All during development, the UCS project was code named California. In fact, all of the Cisco entries in the product line are named after places in California:
Los Angeles – 2RU UCS C250
San Diego – C210 and C200
Palo – Cisco virtualized networking/storage adapter
Catalina – Memory controller chip inside the UCS servers that allow extra memory sockets to be connected to the memory bus
So the next time you find yourself staring at a fictional character on a motherboard, don’t automatically assume that it’s something sinister. It might just be an homage that only gets seen by 10 or 15 people. Who then post it on the Internet and ruin the surprise for everyone.
By the way, if anyone out there knows any other cool Cisco product code names (for released products), post a comment and let me know. These kinds of things are the stuff I expect to win on Jeopardy! with at some point in my lifetime.