My colleague Michael Vizard covered Cisco's announcement of the ASR 1000 at CeBIT. I'm anxious to get a look at Cisco's new ASR 1000 Series Aggregation Services Router with Cisco IOS XE. The platform is supposed to be able to offer high availability for IPsec VPN, firewall services, NetFlow event logging, and DDoS detection and mitigation without stopping.
Like I said, very interesting and I'm looking forward to getting a look at the device. In the meantime, poking around on Cisco's site yielded this gem for IT managers: a significant change in Cisco's maintenance policy for IOS XE.
In the Cisco IOS XE Software End-of-Life Strategy document Cisco will start releasing IOS XE software every four months instead of waiting for a feature queue to fill as is the case for IOS.
The good news is that this means network managers will be able to schedule maintenance on a predictable schedule. Since one of the biggest concerns I hear from readers is the unpredictability of software upgrades, this is a big step forward. Cisco says that "Additional releases to correct critical problems (such as those solved by the Cisco Product Security Incident Response Team [PSIRT]) are introduced as needed."
The bad news could come in the form of increased maintenance costs, an issue I will look into during my review of the product.
What is interesting to me is that the ASR 1000 is, again according to Cisco, able to use multiple virtual images of IOS so that maintenance can be done without shutting down the router. So now maintenance should be both predictable and very low impact on service.
I like the fact that Cisco is talking about end-of-life strategies for IOS XE. In the era of virtualized everything, I suggest that IT managers should apply a "lifecycle" approach to all computing resources. In other words, know the exit plan for a piece of hardware or software from the moment it is purchased for initial installation. Knowing the lifecycle of a product means network managers can bring order to chaos. As IT ecosystems become increasingly large and increasingly virtualized, bringing order to chaos (i.e. management) could well become a competitive advantage.
Cisco's virtualization strategy is clearly meant for older products too, as my walk-through of the new VSS 1440 capabilities for the Catalyst 6500 showed.
I should point out that Cisco further claims that the ASR 1000 hardware platform is future-proofed and not susceptible to being tossed as new features and new capacity are needed. Given Cisco's (good) track record with such platforms as the Catalyst 6500, this makes the ASR 1000 and IOS XE an announcement that network managers should put on their evaluation short list today. I know I am.