Cisco on the edge

Dana Cooperson/Ovum
02 Dec 2008

Cisco Systems has been busy at the network edge this year. The new ASR 1000 platform, launched in March, was followed by upgrades to its 7600 platform in September. Then on 11 November Cisco announced the new ASR 9000 edge platform, which scales to 6.4 Tbps across a wide range of service provider applications and directly responds to competition from Alcatel-Lucent and Juniper.<‾xml:namespace prefix = o ns = 'urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office' />

The $6.6 billion edge IP/MPLS router segment, which Cisco leads with 46% share, is by far the largest segment within the $13.1 billion service provider switch/router market (3Q08 annualized figures). 2008 has been a busy year in the increasingly contentious segment. For example, through 3Q08 Alcatel-Lucent made several significant edge announcements around its five-year-old IP/MPLS edge product line (for example, a 100Gbps network processor chip, the FP2, for 10x speed improvement; enhanced business VPN and other service routing features; and enhancements to its triple play and mobile backhaul architectures). Redback released its new SM480 in June. In October Juniper released a raft of new capabilities across its existing M- and MX-series products (see Ovum brief Juniper Intelligent Service Edge (ISE)). Now Cisco follows its new ASR 1000 and its 7600 upgrade announcements with the ASR 9000 Edge Router.

The ASR 9000 provides Cisco with a much higher-end platform for future network growth requirements and a more direct way of competing (than its venerable 7600) against the number two and three players' flagship edge products, Alcatel-Lucent's 7750 SR and Juniper's MX-960, respectively. However, with over 70,000 units deployed, there's plenty of upgrade potential to keep the 7600 in active development for several years.

The key concepts that made the March announcement of the smaller-scale ASR 1000 buzz-worthy reappear in the ASR 9000, including integrated Ethernet aggregation and service/subscriber management, "Ëœsilicon-based, rather than blade-based' service delivery capabilities; the ability to optimize configurations for enterprise services, consumer broadband, or IP-based mobile backhaul; and better power efficiency than older products, by design emphasis and by integrating multiple boxes' functions (e.g., separate appliances for security, session border control, deep packet inspection, and broadband subscriber management along with edge routing and Ethernet switching). The Cisco-developed QuantumFlow Processor chip, with 100Gbps internal processing capability, is a common element in both ASR products as well.

To this baseline, the ASR 9000 adds a special emphasis on video through both the scaling aspects of the new platform (up to 6.4Tbps, 400Gbps per slot, and integrated DWDM transponders) and a special blade for content delivery that provides an insertion point for targeted advertising as well as content caching and streaming features, multicast/unicast capabilities, and video quality assurance and other user-experience features.


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