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Cisco overhauls edge routers after 5 years, $250M

ASR 1000 line viewed as successor to company’s aging 7200, 7300, 10000 series
By Jim Duffy , , 03/03/2008
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Cisco's 2008 extreme makeover continued last week with the introduction of an all-in-one edge router line designed to handle everything from deep-packet inspection to VoIP traffic, and that's aimed squarely at one of rival Juniper's sweet spots.

The Aggregation Services Router (ASR) 1000 series (see a slideshow of the new router ), which Cisco spent five years and $250 million developing, will handle applications traditionally dealt with by the company's aging 7200, 7300 and 10000 series routers as well as the firewall and QoS jobs typically owned by separate devices. Observers expect that the ASR 1000 boxes, which boast a new operating system and are powered by a superfast processor called QuantumFlow that supports services in software rather than hardware, will eventually replace the older routers.

The ASR 1000 is already the second overhaul of a Cisco product area announced this year. In January, the company unveiled the Nexus 7000, a next generation switch with built-in security that orchestrates storage and computing traffic across data centers. Some observers also expect Cisco to recast its campus switch portfolio, anchored by the years-old Catalyst 6500 and 4500 lines, to better support bandwidth-intensive applications such as video and Web 2.0 programs.

FactSet, a provider of financial information and analytic applications for worldwide investors, sees a major consolidation opportunity with the ASR 1000. "I'll be consolidating multiple 7200s or 7300s into a single ASR chassis" in some larger points of presence, says CTO Jeff Young, whose organization relies on hundreds of the older routers.

With the ASR 1000, Cisco is not only rolling out its next-generation edge router but attacking a sweet spot of Juniper's E-series and Redback's SmartEdge systems, analysts say. (Compare Enterprise Core Router products.) While Cisco still owned 54% of the $1.3 billion service provider edge router market in the third quarter of 2007 and dominates with 84% of the $4.3 billion enterprise router market, according to Dell'Oro figures, Juniper has steadily chipped away (it owned 16% of the carrier edge router market in the third quarter).

"This is a real blast at some of their competitors," says Deb Mielke, president of Treillage Network Strategies. "Juniper's key strength against Cisco was in the edge. But this baby is hot – smaller, more powerful, does a lot of neat things."

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