Cisco unveils ISR generation 2

Cisco Systems Inc. is shipping eight routers designed to help large companies bring video services to branch offices.

The Integrated Services Router Generation 2 includes the 3900 series, which take up three rack units and include unified communications, wireless and wide-area network (WAN) optimization. Prices start at $9,500.

Generation 2 actually includes 11 routers but three – the 860, 880 and 890 – are new names for routers that were already shipping.

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco first rolled out the ISR product line five years ago and has installed about seven million of the devices, said Shashi Kiran, Cisco’s senior manager for network systems and security.

He said the second generation has “almost five times more performance” than the current generation but at “similar price points.”

The first generation had wide-area connectivity of 45 Megabits per second (Mbps) but the second generation supports 150 Mbps.

They also include the Services Ready Engine, which has a terabyte of memory that can be used to store archived video surveillance content.

The 2900 series routers – comprised of four separate models – include slots for digital signal processors (DSPs), and Cisco plans to provide a firmware update in the future.

“Your routers become much more than just a packet-forwarding device,” Kiran said. “You can bring in high definition video into branch offices through Telepresence,” referring to Cisco’s room-sized video conferencing products.

“This is something that would appeal to an organization that is looking to increase video content to branch offices,” said Jayanth Angl, senior analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group. “An organization could conceivably deploy the ISR with video capability and not deploy a separate server or a separate media appliance.”

The 3945 router includes three 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet ports and four service module slots. Security features include virtual private networking, identity management and public key infrastructure. It can also work with Cisco’s firewalls and intrusion prevention systems. The other device in the 3900 series is the 3925.

ISR generation 2 also includes two devices in the 1900 series for branch offices. The 1941 model has two 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports and the 1941W has the same features but with a built-in wireless access point that meets the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 802.11n standard.

The additional features of ISR generation 2 are “not necessarily groundbreaking,” Angl said. “It’s something that’s part of the necessary evolution of the Cisco ISR platform.”

But another analyst believes ISR generation 2 is significant.

“The ISR or the router itself has been the cornerstone of their ability to differentiate in the enterprise,” said Zeus Kerravala, senior vice-president for global enterprise and consumer research at the Boston-based Yankee Group. Cisco has “over 90 per cent of that market in revenue and products. They have maintained a pretty healthy lead on the competition. There is no other router vendor that has the same breadth of features.”

Hewlett-Packard Development Company LP, whose ProCurve division makes switches and routers, has been able to “take a dent out of” Cisco’s lead in the switch market, Kerraaval said. But he added ProCurve has not been able to catch up to Cisco in the router market.

“John Chambers talks a lot about collaboration but what this company is really interested in is selling routers and switches,” he said. “Nothing sells bandwidth like video.”

Chambers, Cisco’s chief executive officer, talked about Cisco’s Webex conferencing product during a conference call earlier this month when Cisco announced it agreed to buy video vendor Tandberg SA.

That deal, which would be a friendly takeover, has yet to be approved by shareholders or regulators.

“Video is a key components of our business strategy,” Kiran said.  “All of us use Youtube but we are also looking at digital signage, surveillance and video collaboration.”

The new routers are part of Cisco’s “borderless networks” strategy.

“People are bringing in iPhones and blackberries into corporate environment,” Kiran said. “They are bringing video cameras in and also bringing laptops home. You need a consistent set of policies and services independent of location or device or application.”

He added with the ISR generation 2, users with branch offices can add new features from a central location instead of bringing hardware to each office.

“Everything can be centralized and managed without truck rolls,” he said.

The new ISR routers also support Cisco’s EnergyWise software, which is designed to turn off devices when they are not being used.