Cisco Unveils New High-Performance WAN Edge Router

Cisco Systems Tuesday is taking the wraps off a new line of midrange routers that aim to bring high-performance services to the network edge.

The new Aggregation Services Router (ASR) family comes after five years of development at a cost to Cisco of over $250 million, the company said.

The ASR incorporates IOS XE, a virtualized version of Cisco's Internetwork Operating System that enables "instant on" service provisioning for features such as firewall, quality of service, deep packet inspection and session border control, said Jonathan Davidson, director of product management for midrange routers.

SLIDESHOW: Cisco's New High-Performance Routers

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The new ASRs provide unparalleled levels of resiliency and application availability, as solution providers can upgrade the software running the routers without taking them out of service, Davidson said. In the same way, problems or failures can occur without interrupting services, he said.

"The ASR enables in-service software upgrades or software failover without redundant hardware," Davidson said. "You can run two or three versions of software at the same time. You can leave it running in standby mode, put a revised version [of software] on, and if there is any problem, it will failover back to the trusted version of the software."

The new Cisco routers will help meet the increasing demands customers are putting on their networks, said Brett Rushton, vice president of network strategy and infrastructure at Calence, a Tempe, Ariz.-based Cisco partner, which is in the process of being acquired by Insight Enterprises.

"Clients are starting to build out larger WANs, with data center and server consolidation, application acceleration," he said. "The expectations for most clients are usual not one, two or three nines anymore; it's an always-on network, particularly as clients go global."

The new line also fills a gap in Cisco's portfolio, he said.

"There's always been a pretty big gap between the 7200 and 7500 [Series routers] in terms of price/performance and functionality. Both have been tried and true workhorses, but they lacked some of the advanced services, like truly scalable VPN," Rushton said.

NEXT: Mystery processor powers new routers

At the heart of the ASR is Cisco's recently launched QuantumFlow Processor, which debuted last week under a shroud of mystery. QuantumFlow offers a 40- to 160-times improvement vs. its predecessor, Davidson said.

"It can process 19.2 billion instructions in the time it takes the average person to blink an eye," said Ben Goldman, director of network systems for Cisco's central marketing organization. "It's like 160 7200 [Series routers] all wrapped together on a single chip."

The ASR is the first product to incorporate the new processor.

Cisco envisions the new router family as a fit for both enterprise and service provider customers. In enterprises, Cisco expects the routers to be used in three different ways: inside the WAN edge framework as head-end aggregation points for Cisco's ISR (Integrated Services Router) branch office family, for larger customers that have built their own WANs on leased lines and as an Internet gateway, Davidson said.

Pricing for the ASR line starts at $35,000. That represents a 30-percent premium over Cisco's 7200 Series routers but also a five to 10-times improvement in performance, plus additional capabilities, he said. It is available in 5-Gbps and 10-Gbps versions, which will begin shipping in April, with a 20-Gbps version planned for release in August, Davidson said.

The ASR line is one of the upgrade recommendations for customers using Cisco's 7500 Series routers, which it stopped selling in December. Cisco continues to sell its 7200 Series routers.

For Cisco solution providers, ASRs will be eligible for several channel incentive programs, including its Opportunity Incentive Program for deal registration and its Technology Migration Program for trade-ins.