Cisco 'Lite'ns Up With New Branch Office Gear


The new wares include fresh additions to some of Cisco's most popular router and switch lines -- including the first-ever "lite" version of its IOS operating software --as well as several service modules that add capabilities to existing products.

No two branch offices within a given enterprise are alike, which creates an opportunity for channel partners to play a strategic role in helping a customer craft a branch office architecture that suits all of its users, said Inbar Lasser-Raab, director of network systems at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.

"You need to translate their business needs into the infrastructure and services required in each branch, and then determine what the architecture will look like," Lasser-Raab said. "We're giving our partners the building blocks they need to provide more robust solutions, more strategic solutions, and working with them hand-in-hand to design the architecture," she said.

For the smallest of offices, the vendor has packaged networking, VoIP and security features together into the Cisco 1861 Integrated Services Router (ISR), a box that supports up to eight users. It's the first fixed platform within the ISR family to also support voice, said Lasser-Raab, noting that Cisco last month shipped its three-millionth ISR.

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The new ISR is Cisco's latest effort to target VoIP products at smaller environments. Earlier this year Cisco launched the Unified Communications 500 platform for small businesses. That product line, also targeting offices as small as eight users, is for stand-alone deployments while the 1861 ISR is aimed at small branch offices that are part of larger VoIP rollouts, she said.

Other new unified communications offerings improve the scalability of its branch offerings. They include Cisco Unified Messaging Gateway and Cisco Unified Communications Express 4.2

The Cisco 1861 ISR is available now starting at $3,995. Unified Messaging Gateway is expected to ship in November, starting at $9,000 for 250 nodes.

Cisco also is rolling out the new Catalyst 2960 LAN Lite Series Switch. The box runs a pared-down version of IOS, offering a subset of the capabilities of the full-featured 2960s already available, said Lasser-Raab. Cisco sold its one-millionth Catalyst 2960 this month, she said.

By shedding Gigabit Ethernet and full IPv6 support, as well as some quality of service and Layer 3 networking features, Cisco can target the line at smaller, more budget-conscious businesses and branch offices, she said.

Cisco Catalyst 2960 LAN Lite Series switches are available now starting at $995.

The vendor also introduced several new add-ons to its modular networking platforms, including Cisco Intrusion Prevention System Advanced Integration Module (IPS AIM) for its 1841, 2800 and 3800-Series ISRs, which adds inline security features integrated into the system's motherboard. With dedicated CPU and DRAM resources, the module runs the same software as Cisco's stand-alone IPS and offers greater scalability than its previous integrated IPS options.

IPS AIM is scheduled for availability in November starting at $3,000.

Cisco is also launching a pair of enhancements to help improve the performance of applications being accessed in branch offices via the WAN. It is adding Performance Routing to IOS, a new feature in its operating software that allows its ISRs to look at parameters such bandwidth and latency requirements of an application and select the path that best suits that application's traffic. Solution providers can team that capability with Cisco's new Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) Network Module 522, built for its Cisco 3800-series ISRs, which adds improved performance over its WAAS 302 and 502 modules. The new WAAS 522 module is available now at an introductory price of $6,950, the same price as its 502 predecessor.

The company also is offering a no-cost software upgrade for the WLAN Controller Network Module for its 2800- and 3800-series ISRs that adds support for Cisco Aironet 1250 access points, the vendor's recently announced line of 802.11n wireless products.

Cisco earlier this month extended the security features of its ISR line by adding network access control technology via a new Network Admission Control module.