Cisco overhauls edge routers after 5 years, US$250M

ASR 1000 line viewed as successor to company’s aging 7200, 7300, 10000 series

At 5G to 10Gbps, the ASR 1000 fills a niche between the 1Gbps 7200s and the 15Gbps 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 fiber.

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 Network 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."

The 1002 also has an integrated 10Gbps shared port adapter interface processor (SIP) while the 1004 and 1006 have two and three slots for SIP modules, respectively.

The ASR 1000 operating system, called IOS XE, is based on IOS images common to the 7200 series routers but built on a Linux kernel. Cisco says this provides modulararity -- in which one component of the operating system can be modified without deactivating the entire package -- and improved resiliency.

A key feature of Cisco IOS XE is its support for dual IOS images running on a single ASR 1002 or 1004 route processor for software redundancy. This dual operation could be used for backup or upgrading to a different release.

The ASR 1006 does not support IOS software redundancy in a single route processor since each of the two hardware redundant route processors support one Cisco IOS XE image.

The dual images also provides software virtualization to enable rapid provisioning and simultaneous use of a range of services, including firewall, IPSec VPNs, deep-packet inspection and session border control, Cisco says.

FactSet's Young says he does not foresee any challenges or issues in migrating to IOS XE. But it does require attention.

"We're definitely aware of the significant change in architecture," he says. "But we're more excited about the benefits -- a lower device count, power and space savings, in-service upgrades -- than we are concerned about the differences. There is some additional complexity and new cost for me to endure, by nature of the architecture. I think Cisco has a pretty good track record for getting that kind of stuff right."

Cisco says the Cisco ASR 1000 also enables service providers and enterprises to reduce their carbon footprint by consolidating the service of several devices or appliances into a single router. Citing analysis by Synergy Research, Cisco says each implementation of the Cisco ASR 1000 can result in carbon footprints savings up to 14,210 litres of fuel or 17 tons of coal annually.

The ASR 1000 series will be generally available in April 2008 in two-, four- and six-rack unit sizes, with prices starting at US$35,000.

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