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Cisco's ASR 1000 router built for 10-year tenure

Tests show ASR 1000 to be powerful, versatile swap for 7200-series routers

By , Network World
January 12, 2009 12:08 AM ET

Network World - With enterprises looking to consolidate data centers and devices, Cisco's new ASR 1000 series router offers a compelling message: Do more with less.


How we tested Cisco's router
Watch a slideshow of the product
Archive of Network World tests

In an exclusive Clear Choice test, the ASR not only moved traffic at 20Gbps but also did so while running QoS, security and monitoring functions on 120 million flows from hundreds of concurrent routing sessions.

The ASR also proved a capable performer when handling multicast and IPSec VPN traffic. And with a 40-core processor, the ASR has enough headroom to run firewalls, load balancers and other services without requiring additional hardware.

That's not to say the ASR isn't still a work in progress. Its data-plane capacity still needs to grow, and Cisco hasn't yet rolled out all the services that ASRs eventually will support. But this is a strong initial effort, well worth considering for the many enterprises looking to replace tiers of aging 7200 routers with a single more powerful system.

Introducing the ASR

ASR 1000 series hardware -- which began shipping last April and was upgraded in November (see announcement blogs) -- has three components: an embedded service processor (ESP) for data-plane traffic, a route processor (RP) for control-plane functions and one or more line cards. The ASR family includes two-, four- and six-slot models; for this test Cisco supplied the top-of-the-line six-slot ASR 1006 with redundant RP and ESP modules and power supplies.

The ASR's most notable new feature is its ESP module, all of which features the 40-core Quantum Flow Processor (QFP).Through separate software licenses, QFP supports numerous services such as firewalls, NetFlow and Nbar classifiers and, in the future, caching load balancers. The ESP module also offers powerful QoS features, with 128,000 queues and support for up to 1,000 global policies and classification maps.

While the RP is functionally similar to Cisco 7200 routing modules, it scales higher; a million Border Gateway Protocol routes and hundreds of thousands of Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) routes are possible. Scalability also extends to the number of routing sessions: Our tests involved hundreds of concurrent OSPF sessions, something we haven't been able to set up with earlier midrange Cisco routers. The RP also offers an integrated session border controller for VoIP traffic and unified communications.

ASR line cards use the same shared port adapter (SPA) design as Cisco Catalyst 7600, Cisco 12000 and CRS-1 routers and are interchangeable among them, which should help control sparing costs. The SPA modules in turn fit into SPA interface processor (SIP) line cards.

The ASR's operating system is IOS XE, a Linux-based variant of Cisco's IOS software. XE looks and feels similar to IOS on 7200 routers, but it's actually just another process running under Linux. Unlike earlier versions where a problem with one process could crash the whole system, this modular design should help contain faults.

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