Cisco overhauls edge routers after 5 years

Better support for converged applications between corporate HQs and branch offices targeted

Cisco has overhauled its edge router line with a new platform designed to provide better support for converged applications between corporate headquarters and branch offices.

The Cisco Aggregation Services Router (ASR) 1000 series is designed for multiservice and broadband aggregation, applications traditionally handled by Cisco's aging 7200, 7300 and 10000 series routers. Cisco stopped short of saying the ASR 1000 would eventually replace those platforms but observers expect that to be the case, especially given that Cisco spent five years and US$250 million (NZ$312 million) developing the new line, which includes a new QuantumFlow processor and operating system.

The ASR 1000 is the second major overhaul of a Cisco product area this year. In January, the company unveiled the Nexus 7000, its next-generation data centre switch which includes another new operating system. Some observers expect Cisco to recast its campus switch portfolio as well which is anchored by the years-old Catalyst 6500 and 4500 lines.

FactSet, a provider of financial information and analytic applications for worldwide investors, is looking to replace several of the hundreds of Cisco 7200 and 7300 routers with the ASR 1000 in some of its larger points of presence.

"I'll be consolidating multiple 7200s or 7300s into a single ASR chassis," says Jeff Young, FactSet CTO.

With the ASR 1000, Cisco is not only rolling out its next-generation edge router but attacking the sweetspot of Juniper's E-series and Redback's SmartEdge systems, analysts say.

"I think this is a real blast at some of their competitors," says Deb Mielke, president of Treillage Network Strategies. "Juniper's key strength against Cisco was in the edge. But this baby is hot — smaller, more powerful, does a lot of neat things."

The ASR 1000 includes three models: the 1002, which has three port adapter slots; the 1004, with eight slots; and the 1006, with 12. The port adapters include two- and four-port channelised and clear channel T-3/E-3; four-port serial interface; eight-port channelised T-1/E-1; four- and eight-port 10/100 Ethernet; two-, five-, eight- and 10-port Gigabit Ethernet; one-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet; and two- and four-port OC-3 packet over SONET (PoS), and one-port OC-12 PoS.

The 1002 has another slot for a 5Gbit/s to 10Gbit/s embedded services processor (ESP), as well as an integrated route processor. The 1004 has separate slots for a 10Gbit/s ESP and a route processor, while the 1006 has 2 10Gbit/s ESP slots and two route processor slots for hardware redundancy.

At 5Gbit/s to 10Gbit/s, the ASR 1000 fills a niche between the 1Gbit/s 7200s and the 15Gbit/s 7600 series, which is dedicated to Ethernet aggregation. In the enterprise, the ASR 1000 can be used as a headend to aggregate multiple Cisco Integrated Services Routers at branch sites; as an internet gateway; and as a private WAN using leased lines and dedicated fibre.

In a service provider environment, the ASR 1000 can function as a broadband service provisioning vehicle and as CPE for a managed service offering.

The ESP, which is based on Cisco's new QuantumFlow processor, allows services such as network security, deep packet inspection, firewall, quality of service, network based application recognition, broadband aggregation and session border control to reside in software and not require additional hardware support in the form of a service blade, Cisco says. QuantumFlow was developed with technology obtained from Cisco's acquisition of Procket Networks in 2004.

The processor is "just flat out cool," says Steve Schuchart, an analyst at Current Analysis. "They've hit on reliability, security and speed. They've added services to the router — this is a nice addition to their line."

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