Cisco Hikes Router Line Modularity

Cisco unveils a series of router enhancements that are aimed at giving service providers greater network flexibility, efficiency and manageability.

Cisco Systems Inc. last week unveiled a series of router enhancements that are aimed at giving service providers greater network flexibility, efficiency and manageability.

In an effort to build momentum behind its IP NGN (Next-Generation Network) initiative, Cisco is extending its modular IOS (Internetwork Operating System) XR to its 12000 Series routers.

The San Jose, Calif., company is also adding features to the 12000 line that will allow service providers to safely consolidate separate services networks onto a single infrastructure. Cisco also announced additions to its 7600 router line, along with two significant customer wins as part of its IP NGN: Sprint Corp. and Comcast Corp.

The moves are Ciscos strongest play yet to take back market share from rival Juniper Networks Inc. in the service provider network space, according to analysts.

"This is catch-up for Cisco, but theyre swinging the bat really hard," said Ray Mota, an analyst at Synergy Research Group Inc., in Scottsdale, Ariz. "With IOS XR on what has traditionally been a low-to-midrange core product, there is no longer a knock on Cisco because of the modularity and scalability of their software."

IOS XR, launched last June with Ciscos new high-end CRS-1 router, was designed to be a more modular, more self-healing operating system than Ciscos enterprise-focused IOS. It was also designed for continuous operation. The Cisco XR 12000 Series router is due in June.

Cisco added a secure virtualization feature that allows a single router to provide separate physical and logical routing domains. The feature lets service providers collapse separate networks for Internet and VPN services onto one network but keep traffic separated within the same system.

Cisco also brought more flexibility to its service provider router line by launching its I-Flex (Interface Flexibility) design, which lets interface modules be used interchangeably across routers. New I-Flex SPAs (shared port adapters) and SIPs (SPA interface processors) can be used across Ciscos CRS-1, XR 12000, 12000, 10000, 7600 and 7304 routers.

"Service providers are really getting squeezed. They need the ability to interchange cards and equipment among the different boxes. If you think about cost of ownership, business continuity [and] virtualization, [Cisco is] doing the right things for their customers," said Deb Mielke, managing director at Treillage Network Strategies Inc., in McKinney, Texas.

Cisco added a more compact 7600 Series router, the 7604, which supports up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet speed in a five-rack-unit chassis.

The 7604 is due at months end.


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