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Cisco Kicks Off Big Refreshes For Switching, Routing Behind 40/100 GbE Upgrades, ISR Shift

Cisco is updating its Ethernet switching lines and also preparing for a big installed base upgrade in routing following an end-of-sale announcement for its ISR G1.

Cisco has confirmed significant updates to its major Ethernet Switching lines, as well as disclosed plans for a major upgrade cycle on its key Integrated Services Router (ISR) line.

Among the big changes on the Switching side are that Cisco has added 40G Ethernet to the Catalyst 6500, still Cisco's most-sold single product and top switching line, and also added 40/100G Ethernet to its Nexus 7000 data center switch.

Any updates to Cisco's switch lines, of course, affect a major installed base. Researcher Dell'Oro Group put Cisco's share of Layer 2-Layer 3 switching revenue, excluding unmanaged switches, at 71.8 percent for the third quarter of 2011, and its port share of that category at 51.7 percent. In its fiscal Q1 2012, Cisco posted $3.67 billion in switching revenue.

Craig Huitema, director of data center solutions at Cisco, said Cisco has shipped in excess of more than 10 million 10G Ethernet ports but that the enterprise and service provider transition to more robust Ethernet is well underway.

"With all that bandwidth around the edge of the network we are moving to a point where 40G and 100G start to manifest themselves," Huitema said. "The need is more critical among service providers and large enterprises because there are applications driving huge demand. We've reached that inflection point."

The updated Catalyst 6500 switches will be available in April, while the updated Nexus 7000 will be available later in the second quarter of calendar 2012. Cisco plans to put 40G Ethernet on its Nexus 5000 switches next, Huitema added.

Cisco is also launching two new fixed configuration switches, the Catalyst 4500-X -- a 40-port 10 GbE switch intended for constrained campus environments wanting easy compatibility with virtualized networks -- and the Nexus 3064-X, which adds additional bells and whistles, such as QSFP+ ports.

Further, Cisco is adding network virtualization capabilities to its Catalyst 6500, Catalyst 4500 and ASR 1000 products using a technology Cisco calls the Easy Virtual Network configuration, plus a virtual services appliance for the data center, the Nexus 1010, which supports Cisco's six-month old Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN) capability for scaling different data center workloads. Cisco confirmed that the Nexus 1000V virtual switch also now supports VXLAN.

Cisco cited research from Infonetics Research that the 10 GbE switching market would see 58 percent compound annual growth from 2010 to 2015 for both data center and enterprise campus deployments. For 40GbE/100GbE switching at the aggregation/core layer, Infonetics has the CAGR as 214 percent.

"Those are big numbers when you consider the value you have put forth and the number of ports that will go into these types of segments," said Wenceslao Lada, vice president, worldwide channels for Borderless Networks at Cisco. "We have the biggest installed base by far. So that's a lot of traction with our customers."

The new switches will apply to Cisco's major partner incentive programs, such as VIP, TIP and OIP, and Lada said partners should also expected new value-added services opportunities in the coming months.

Next: Cisco's Router Refresh


Cisco is also in the midst of a major routing refresh -- one that its top routing executive says will bring even more services and other capabilities onto its Integrated Services Routers (ISR).

It's been around since 2006, but the ISR's second generation launched in late 2009 alongside the kickoff of the Borderless Networks initiative. Praveen Akkiraju, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Services Routing Technology Group, said the expansion of Cisco's routing expertise is a big part of that strategy, and that future ISR upgrades would be made with cloud computing in mind.

Much like the Layer 2-Layer 3 Ethernet switching market, Cisco outright dominates the enterprise routing market, holding what according to Dell'Oro Group is about an 84 percent share of the access router share and 52 percent of the high-end router share.

Following a recent restructuring in Cisco's engineering ranks, the current enterprise routing group includes Cisco's ISR team, its WAN optimization team (Cisco Wide Area Application Services, or WAAS) and its Aggregation Services Router (ASR) team. Future versions of Cisco's routing technology will include elements from each of those teams.

"The notion was that customers think about this as an entity," Akkiraju explained in a recent interview with CRN. "Optimization pieces all play together. We expect customers to continue to buy WAAS appliances, but what we're also seeing is that WAN optimization has to be considered in the context of the overall architecture. We're trying to define an HOV lane for certain amounts of [network] traffic, not multiple HOV lanes independent of each other."

The routing blitz by Cisco is actually a defensive move, as well. Cisco announced end of sale for the first-generation ISR in November, meaning that a huge routing installed base will need to be steadily migrated. That presents an opportunity for Cisco channel partners, Akkiraju acknowledged, and also a threat, based on router competitors who will try to sway customers to change their routing options instead of upgrade to more Cisco.

"This is a unique opportunity for partners to upgrade the installed base," Akkiraju said. "So we're focused on helping them understand how they can use trends like cloud and mobility, and how we've prepared the routers, to drive a big upgrade cycle. Over the course of the year, you're going to see us announce many more cloud-based solutions, especially connecting the assets we have to the cloud in a way that is meaningful for customers."

Cisco's Lada added that Cisco is now running workshops and doing other outreach with partners to educate customers on continuing to invest with Cisco's routing strategy. Cisco partners will see added incentives for routing upgrades, particularly around services, in Cisco's various partner incentive programs, he said.

"We have to focus on the business outcome for customers," Akkirahu explained. "If all we're doing is saying, you had a G1, now here's a G2, we're going to fail because that's not a very compelling argument."

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