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The Rout(er) is on for Cisco

Cisco Systems Inc. Tuesday refreshed its large line of Internet routers -- devices that determine where data packets should be sent on a network -- with 14 new platforms and several enhancements to its modular access umbrella.

The San Jose, Calif., networking giant is packing this broad product announcement, targeted for branch offices and remote workers, with pledges for improved security, availability, and Quality of Service (QoS). The new routers cover low- to high-end performance, and range in price from $350 to $12,000.

Also in the mix is a new application service router family, dubbed the Cisco 3700 series. This new member of the family, comprised of the 3725 ($8,500) and 3745 ($12,000) routers, is designed for full-service branch office IP telephony. It yields integrated switching, IP phone power, and voice gateway capability when combined with the inline-powered EtherSwitch network module.

What made Cisco move to bolster its routers, which already enjoy significant play in the market? The company looked at a study from the University of California, which estimated that the adoption of "network-enabled applications, such as collaboration tools, video conferencing and distance learning, will be the most important factor impacting future productivity growth for U.S. companies." That is where Cisco anticipates its routers succeeding along the business chain. The aforementioned tools are vital to workers reporting to headquarters from the road, or remote locations such as satellite offices.

Joel Conover, senior analyst of Current Analysis, said: "Branch locations in particular are deploying this next wave of applications, requiring new needs for security, QoS, and availability at the branch edge. Branches need a single-platform solution, with the power to support a range of intelligent services, that can fulfill their current access needs for advanced applications and provide the flexibility to future-proof their networks for the next generation of applications tomorrow."

The new Cisco routers are all based on Cisco IOS software, which provides security features, including firewall, IPSec virtual private network (VPN), and an intrusion detection system (IDS) to keep the network secure. IOS Software allows remote configuration and troubleshooting.

Now, for the new hardware:

  • Cisco 2691 Modular Access Router: designed to offer the performance required for a range of concurrent remote office applications, including converged voice/video/data, wire-speed VPN, and the delivery of web-based applications. ($6,295)
  • Cisco 2600XM Modular Access Routers, which includes the Cisco 2610/11XM, 2620/21XM, and 2650/51XM models, are an expansion and upgrade from the existing 2600 line. The models deliver up to 33 percent more performance and significantly increased memory capacity at the same price points as their comparable 2600 models (priced between $1,995 and $4,195)
  • Cisco 1760 Router: a gadget for Small Branch Offices and Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) that is a a four-slot, 19-inch rack-mount router ($1,595)
  • Cisco 1721 Modular Access Router: a two-slot modular access router optimized for data access, offers increased performance, memory and support for IEEE 802.1Q VLAN at the same base price as the Cisco 1720. This model business-class DSL, including ADSL and G.SHDSL ($1,195)
  • On the broadband router portfolio side, Cisco now offers new, more secure hardware for remote offices and small office/home office (SOHO) environments, including the Cisco SOHO 77H ($549) and Cisco 827H ADSL routers, ($649) and the Cisco SOHO 71 router ($350) for connecting to an external cable or DSL modem

In a related announcement, Cisco today unveiled enhancements to the Cisco 7300, 7400, 7500 and 7600 Series multiservice routing platform for enterprises. In addition to standby features such as Frame Relay, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), and PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol)/HDLC (High-level Data Link Control) traffic, the company threw in Any Transport over MPLS (AToM), a software-based service that will allow public carriers to converge multiple disparate data networks onto a single MPLS-based backbone to cut costs.

Analysts generally see Cisco as well postioned in the networking infrastructure market so long as the call from service providers picks up. Morgan Stanley has said it expects the outfit to add share in many of its major businesses this year, as several of its new Ethernet switches are industry leaders. That, compounded by financial troubles at competitors Nortel Networks and Lucent Technologies , should usher in greater opportunities for Cisco.