Cisco creates new aggregation router family

Cisco Systems has built a new series of aggregation routers around a powerful 40-core central processor which it says are particularly tailored for resource-intensive data, voice and video applications in either enterprises or service providers.

The ASR 1000 family, to be delivered next month in two, four and six rack unit sizes at pricing starting at US$35,000, “changes the way enterprises will look at the WAN edge and Internet gateways,” said Jonathan Davidson, Cisco’s director of product marketing for mid-range routers.

“As enterprise customers are looking to utilize more video and collaborative applications and collapsing a lot of LAN links on their WAN, it’s a terrific opportunity for the insertion of the ASR 1000 range,” added Ben Goldman, the manufacturer’s central marketing director of network systems.

The new series is built around Cisco’s recently-announced QuantumFlow Processor (QPF) and combines the ability to instantly turn on and deliver services such as firewall, IPSec, VPNs, deep packet inspection and session boarder control.

Until now, organizations needing an aggregation router from the company used a Cisco 7600 or 7200 router, plus other appliances or blade serversto deliver such capabilities.

The ASR 1000 family is run by a new version of Cisco’s operating system, IOS XE, which is built on top of a Linux core to allow virtualization of the OS. As a result, data centre managers can run two instances of the operating system at the same time, allowing software upgrades to be installed without shutting down the router.

As Davidson explained it, version A of an application can run in standby mode while version B is switched on without disruption. Should there be a problem the QFP processor switches back to the first version in milliseconds.

In fact Cisco boasts of the processor’s speed in imaginative ways, saying it can recover from a service outage faster than a single flap of a hummingbird’s wings, or provide a secure encrypted connection to every city in the world with a population larger than 150,000.

Or, if you like statistics, it can process 19.2 billion instructions in the time it takes an average person to blink. Its 40 cores can deal with 160 processes simultaneously.

IOS XE is the same image that runs on Cisco’s Catalyst 7000 series of routers, so network managers will not have to learn anything new, Davidson said.

In line-up terms, the ASR 1000 family fits in the middle of its routers, between Cisco’s 7200 and 7600 series.

In terms of network design, at the WAN edge ASR 1000 routers could be tied into Cisco’s ISR branch routers or perform as an Internet gateway.

For service providers, ASR 1000 routers are intended to give them the ability to deliver hosted or managed services easier by not having to go to a customer’s site to turn services off or on. “That changes the ROI model for the service provider,” said Davidson, allowing them to create “an annuity of services.”

When released, the ASR 1000 family will start off with embedded service processors running at either 5 Gbps or 10 Gbps. In August, a 20Gbps processor will be available. The series will also come with more than one route processors. They also use the same shared port adaptors (SPAs) as the Cisco Catalyst 6500, 7600 and 12,000 routers.

Initially there will be 12 SPAs for the ASR family, ranging from fractal T1s to 10G Ethernet interfaces.

“They stuck to what router administrators want,” observed Steven Schuchart, a data centre and enterprsie network analyst at Current Analysis in Green Bay, Wisconsin. “You don’t want to screw around with your aggregation router.” Cisco concentrated on reliability, speed and services, he said.

At the same time, he added, “Cisco showed a lot of innovation with the QuantumFlow Processor, the rewrite of IOS and even adding the services to the box.”

“It hits a good spot, and you can tell with the technology they put it, and they can use that technology elsewhere in their product line.

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