Cisco targets mobile with new networking platform

Cisco Systems Inc. has released a new packet core platform it says will make IP networks smarter, more  flexible, and most of all, mobile friendly.
The newest addition to the ASR 5000 series, Cisco [NASDAQ: CSCO] claims the ASR 5500 is capable of 10 times the throughput of earlier technology. Most significantly, it will offer the “elastic” capability to handle a mixed bag of networking functions for different devices, including smartphones and tablets, Wi-fi-attached computers and machine-to-machine (M2M) transactions, the company said.  The platform can handle user sessions, transactions, signaling and data traffic, and is scalable from several hundred gigabits to one terabit.
In a press conference Tuesday, company spokesman Kelly Ahuja, senior vice-president and general manager of Cisco’s mobile Internet technology group, said the product has been designed as an all-in-one solution to some of the problems its clients were facing. “The challenges that we hear from the customers about are really about network reach, which is, ‘How do I offer cost-effective coverage and capacity?’” he said.
The intelligent capabilities the ASR 5500 brings to networks will allow users rapidly to either “optimize user experience or monetize the experience,” Ahuja said.
Cisco is now supporting around a billion subscribers on 3G and 4G mobile networks as well as more than 13 million small-cell access points, he added. The increasing diversity of people and devices, and the unpredictable demands they place on networks required a new, more adaptable type of packet core architecture, Ahuja said.  He gave the example of a user connecting to a service via a mobile network early in the day and then switching to Wi-Fi hours later.
“In the new normal, it’s really about having a heterogeneous network access,” he said. “You’ve got to work across, whether it’s a small cell, or macro cell, or you’ve got a 2G, 3G, 4G or a Wi-Fi connection—you’ve got to work across all of those.”
As well as providing more seamless network access, he said, the ASR 5500’s “elasticity” would extend to applications. “You may have certain applications that require more capacity at a certain point in the network and other applications that require different capacity,” he said.
Ahuja also pointed to what he called “the internet of things,” M2M communications, in other words, which don’t normally require large amounts of throughput, but are becoming sufficiently numerous to require dynamic adjustments on the part of IP networks.
Zeus Kerravala, Principal Analyst, at ZK Research Inc., said the heavy emphasis on mobile connectivity in the ASR 5500 marks a fairly significant shift for the company. “Cisco has historically not been a mainstream mobile infrastructure provider,” said Kerravala, “but since the acquisition of Starent [Networks] they’ve obviously bolstered that part of their business much more.”
“I do think it’s a good, solid announcement for them. When you look at the amount of traffic that’s growing on the mobile side, it’s going to far outweigh what’s happened on the wire-line.”
As the growth in mobile forces Cisco to adapt to a new reality, he added, the networking giant will likely begin to square off against new adversaries, he added.

“I think the competition in this market is going to come not from its traditional wire-line competitors such as Juniper, but probably more along the lines of somebody like Alcatel-Lucent or Erikson.”

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