RealTime IT News

Cisco Makes Routers More 'Integrated'

For networking giant Cisco, the router is more than just a connectivity appliance. It's a platform by which a wide range of networking services, including security, VoIP and acceleration, can be served.

That is the promise of Cisco's integrated services router (ISR) product line, which was originally launched three years ago and has shipped over 3 million units. Cisco is now updating its ISR portfolio with the Cisco 1861 ISR and new security and performance routing modules for the ISR platform.

Cisco 1861
The 1861 for all-in-one secure routing.
Source: Cisco

Cisco is also rolling out a new Catalyst 2960 Series Switches with a new light version of Cisco's IOS networking operating system.

"By integrating services into the ISR form factor we're lowering the barriers to entry for capabilities adoption even in a small branch," Inbar Lasser-Raab, director of network systems, told InternetNews.com. "They [customers] may not be able to afford a full-fledged security appliance, but they can afford those capabilities integrated into the router."

But the 1861 ISR is not a fully modular appliance in that Cisco is selling it to end users in a series of fixed configurations. It's an all-in-one unified communications solution that is combined with a secure routing platform. Though not quite what Lasser-Raab considers to be entry level, the 1861 is geared toward smaller branch offices with up to eight users.

Lasser-Raab explained that the existing ISR 800 and 1800 devices are fixed platforms that come with integrated security, but they did not come with Cisco's unified communication system that includes voice functionality. The first entry point that Cisco previously had for voice on the ISR was with support for 24 phones, but Cisco found that there was demand for smaller eight-person branches, as well.

On the modular side of the ISR product family Cisco is adding a number of new modules, including an integrated IPS module to its lineup. Lasser-Raab said that, though Cisco IOS network operating system already includes support for IPS, the IPS module provides greater performance and functionality for the ISR with support for over 2200 IDS (intrusion detection system) signatures.

Cisco is also adding a Performance Routing (PfR) and High-End Cisco Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) Network Module. The module provides WAN and application acceleration capabilities to the modular ISRs.

2960 Catalyst
The 2960 Catalyst switch.
Source: Cisco

Earlier this month, Cisco introduced a NAC module for the ISRs that provides integrated network access control functionality.

In addition to the ISR updates, Cisco is also updating its 2960 Catalyst switches, which are also geared toward the smaller branch office. The new switches use a stripped-down version of Cisco IOS called LAN Lite Cisco IOS Software. Lasser-Raab explained that the Lite version has a subset of the full IOS capabilities but is still a fully managed secure switch that gives customers a lower price point.

"The reason why we've done it is to lower barriers to entry for customer that want to go on a managed switch architecture solution that couldn't afford it before," Lasser-Raab said.

Though Cisco continues to dominate much of the networking space, in recent years it has faced some new challenges from other networking vendors like Juniper Networks and Nortel among others. Lasser-Raab however is very confident that Cisco has little to worry about from its competition.

"The scope of services, module and solutions that we have, no body has that but Cisco," Lasser-Raab boasted. "That scope is incomparable and is really a high bar."