Software Conjures the Magic in Cisco ASR 1000 Routers

The modular IOS delivers the biggest bang for the buck with users.

Despite the wow factor in the QuantumFlow processors Cisco Systems used in its new ASR 1000 Series routers, the real value Cisco added to the next-generation aggregation routers is in software.

Although Cisco claims the new ASR 1000 provides a five to 10 times performance improvement for a 30 percent price premium over Cisco's existing 7200 Series routers, customers will benefit more from the ability provided in software to upgrade the routers or make other changes without having to take them out of service.

Thanks to the ASR's modular version of IOS that runs on Linux, users can add new shared port adapters, upgrade software or turn on new features without having to take the routers out of service.

Existing 7200 and 7300 Series routers require a reboot to make those changes, which can be a big headache for larger networks.

Beta testers at FactSet believe the in-service upgrades will greatly reduce the logistics burden of coordinating with its multiple customers whenever router changes are made, according to Jeff Young, chief technology officer at the Norwalk, Conn., company, which supplies data and analysis to financial services firms.

Although Young does not know how much the simplified updates will save FactSet, he believes other benefits of the ASR 1000 will help reduce operational costs.

Because FactSet co-locates its equipment with hosting companies, the smaller form factor and more efficient power usage of the ASR 1000 will help save operational dollars.

"The less space and wattage I use, the more I save," he said.

In its emphasis on ease of upgrades or turning on new services, the ASR 1000 competes with Juniper J Series routers, which integrate "hundreds of security services," said Mark Fabbi, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

"Cisco's old answer to that was the [Integrated Services Router] plus the [Adaptive Security Appliance]. If you are going to have that high degree of packet handling, you need that level of performance [that the ASR 1000 provides]," he said.

At least one industry observer, Deb Mielke, managing director at Treillage Network Strategies, believes the ASR 1000 leapfrogs competitive products from Juniper and RedBack Networks.

"The competitive products have been out there for a while. This is a major step forward," she said.

Along with security services and deep packet inspection provided in the ASR 1000, Cisco also supports IP telephony, Session Border Control, quality of service and IP Multicast services.

Such support is key for the future as more enterprises embrace collaboration and video technologies, Mielke believes.

"These are made for collaboration and video. Existing products weren't designed for video. If you're in the router market, you've got to be thinking about video," she said.