Taking a Closer Look at the Cisco ASR 1000 Series

Even in a down economy we are getting ready to build a new data center. This data center will be a showcase virtualization design using the Nexus 7000 and Nexus 5000 series switches. However, one of the key parts of this new data center, other than the internal LAN, is the WAN connectivity. This data center will be our DEV/TEST/STAGE/DR data center so we will be copying large amounts of data from our production data center to the new facility. After doing a traffic and capacity analysis we concluded we needed around 600 Mbps of WAN bandwidth between the two data centers (yes, we have LOTS of data). It may be extreme, but the copying between development, stage, production and DR environments is huge and frequent. After doing a competitive RFP with carriers we finalized on two, completely diverse 1 Gbps WAN links between the data centers. The next problem was deciding how to connect these 1 Gbps links to our network. The Cisco 7200s, which are the current WAN routers at these sites, could not scale. And the 7600s we own did not have a SIP card installed. Connecting the 1 Gbps WAN links to regular SFP-gigabit Ethernet interfaces on the 7600s was not an option because of the limited QoS capabilities of those interfaces. That brought us to looking at the Cisco ASR 1000 series. When Cisco released the ASR 1000 last year I saw it as an evolution, not a revolution. It was essentially "make more packets go fast". After reviewing the ASR with our account team, seeing Network World's recent tests, and doing research on Cisco.com, I am still convinced that "make more packets go fast" is the proper description, but the ASR is an impressive platform. The ASR comes in three chassis, 1002, 1004, and 1006.

Essentially, you start with a chassis; let's say the top of the line 1006:

Then you add in one or two (if you want redundancy) route processors to handle IOS, routing protocols, management, policy distribution to line cards, etc. The RP is the "brains" of the router:

After you have the RP in the chassis, you need an Embedded Service Processor (ESP) to do the packet forwarding work:

Shared Port Adapters (SPA) that the 6500, 7600, 7300, 12000, and CRS-1 use. But to use SPAs you need a SPA Interface Processor (SIP).

The SIP installs in the chassis and holds the SPAs (get that?). SIP holds the SPAs; SPAs go into the SIP. SIPs have a 10Gbps backplane to the rest of the router. The SIP can take 4 half-height SPAs, two full-height SPAs, or a combination of the two. Now that you have the SIP cards installed in the chassis, you can pick your SPAs which have the actual interfaces. The SPAs install in the SIP cards:

There are a range of different SPA interfaces to choose from which makes the ASR very flexible. Now that we've covered the basic build of an ASR, over the next few blogs I am going to delve into the details of the ASR more covering the performance test results, IOS XE, QoS, and design possibilities. I'll also provide some insight into our use and results with the ASR.

More >From the Field blog entries:

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