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October 22, 2009

Cisco’s new ISR G2 Routers will Power the Borderless Network

On October 19th, we looked at Extreme Networks’ new BlackDiamond 20804 Ethernet Transport Switch. Interestingly the company explained their new switch’s extraordinary capabilities in terms of supporting video services on the network. We also quoted Michael Howard at Infonetics Research, “Our recent residential services report shows that by 2011, the service provider revenue for video services will surpass voice services…”

Certainly visual and integrated associated media (multimedia, actually) will be both driving network bandwidth expansion and applications. But what makes things like unified messaging into genuine unified communications is not just multimedia and Presence but Mobility. We all know how today’s workforce regularly roams beyond the boundaries of the office, but there’s a flip side—the workforce re-enters the office with an increasing array of mobile communications-enabled gizmos that they continue to use when on-premise, and applications are now increasingly called in from the cloud, not from the data center downstairs. Thus, devices and applications know no corporate boundaries either.

The ongoing mantra here is that anybody should be able to easily and seamlessly communicate with anyone else anywhere at anytime, in any way they desire, and yet the user experience should be the same in terms of connectivity and security. This concept has reached a crescendo with Cisco’s marketing of the “Borderless Network,” their new architecture, the key component of which is a new generation of routers. Cisco’s new version of their venerable Integrated Services Router (ISR) is called, not surprisingly, the Integrated Services Route Generation 2 (ISR G2). Cisco has sold over 7 million of the original ISRs, which is quite an act to follow. Fortunately, Cisco has come up with a product family that should spur many companies into finally entering the modern world of business communications.

Now easily deployable with a single Cisco IOS software image capable of enabling all of Cisco IOS features and allowing you to quickly deploy new services, the ISR G2 is seen as a way to deal with enterprise and commercial branch offices of all sizes. It should also do well in the world of small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). That’s because the ISR G2 is packed with an assortment of “next-gen” features that should put it squarely in the sights of any organization that suddenly realizes the need to buy into the borderless network concept:

• service virtualization—an innovative “on-demand” services delivery model run under the auspices of the Services Ready Engine, or SRE, and services can be simply “switched” on, instead of hardware coupled as in the old ISR.
• video-ready capabilities—that is, both voice and video-ready digital signal processors. It’s interesting how seriously Cisco is taking video. Cisco’s bandwidth-optimized and scalable video services include media-rich video conferencing, video surveillance, video streaming and digital signage. They’re even expecting telepresence to be used to at least some degree between headquarters and midsize branch offices.
• increased WAN performance—a multicore design that can handle 150 Mbps with services, a major step up from the old single-core ISR and its 45 Mbps capability.

ISR G2 technology is available in four families of routers.

Cisco 800 Series is the entry-level unit for teleworkers and small offices. The high-end of this series, the Cisco 892, is an 8-port 10/100 Fast Ethernet managed switch with VLAN support and 4-port support for Power over Ethernet (PoE) (optional). It’s Metro Ethernet features include one 1000 BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet port and one 10/100 BASE-T Fast Ethernet WAN port, intelligent Hierarchical Quality of Service (HQoS), Connectivity Fault Management (CFM), link operational administration and maintenance (OAM), and a Ethernet Local Management Interface (E-LMI) for the Customer Edge IP service-level agreement (SLA) for Metro Ethernet

The 892 supports redundant WAN links in the form of Fast Ethernet and ISDN Basic Rate Interface (BRI), a secure 802.11a/g/n access point (optional) with dual-band radios for mobility, and it supports Cisco Unified WLAN architectures. It’s security features include a firewall and site-to-site remote-access and dynamic VPN services: IP Security (IPsec) VPNs, Group Encrypted Transport VPN [GET VPN] with onboard acceleration, and Secure Sockets Layer [SSLVPN]. There’s also an Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) and the unit is capable of content filtering.

The Cisco 1900 Series is for small offices that nevertheless need highly secure mobility and customizable applications. The Cisco 1941W, for example, has 2 integrated 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports, 2 Enhanced High-Speed WAN Interface Card slots that can host 2 single wide or 1 double wide and 1 single wide High-Performance WAN Interface Cards (HWIC), 1 integrated 802.11n Wireless Access Point, and it supports fully-integrated power distribution to modules supporting 802.3af Power over Ethernet (PoE) and Cisco Enhanced PoE.

The Cisco 2900 Series is a mid-range offering. The top model, the 2951, has 3 integrated 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports with 1 port capable of RJ-45 or SFP connectivity, 2 service module slots, 4 Enhanced High-Speed WAN Interface Card slots, 3 onboard DSP slots, and 1 internal service module slot for application services.

The Cisco 3900 Series is the flagship, high-end router of the ISR G2 universe. The 3945 has 3 integrated 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports with 2 ports capable of RJ-45 or SFP connectivity, 4 service module slots, 4 Enhanced High-Speed WAN Interface Card slots, 4 onboard digital signal processor (DSP) slots, 1 Internal Services Module slot and dual integrated power supplies. It can deliver just about any scalable rich-media collaborative service or application you can think of, including Cisco TelePresence.

The 3900 Series has a field-upgradeable motherboard and supports circuit-speed WAN performance up to 150 Mbps in environments with concurrent services enabled (150 Mbps with the Cisco 3945 and 100 Mbps with the Cisco 3925). Its Multi-Gigabit Fabric (MGF) enables high-bandwidth module-to-module communication without router performance taking a hit. It supports all services such as security, mobility, WAN optimization, unified communications, video, and customized applications. And, amazingly, it takes the form of a box just 3 Rack Units (5.25 inches) high.

Cisco says that competitors such as 3Com, Avaya/Nortel, HP and Juniper Networks are scrambling to develop similar solutions, but Cisco is ready with theirs and they will be shipping in December 2009. The ISR G2s will be sold at the same price point as their predecessors.

With the coming of the ISR G2, we’ll start hearing the terms like “visual networking” instead of “multimedia” and service providers will now be “experience providers.”

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