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Cisco targets WAN edge with new router family

News Analysis
Oct 20, 20204 mins

Cisco unpacked Catalyst 8000, a new family of edge networking gear that support SD-WAN, branch office, zero-trust security, SASE.

A network of digital connections extend broadly across layers of city highways / routing paths.
Credit: Wenjie Dong / Getty Images

Cisco has launched a family of core and branch routers that take aim at refining secure, cloud resource access distributed at the edge.

Cisco Catalyst 8000 edge router family includes three models–the high-end 8500 for data-center or colocation customers, the 8300 for branch users, and the software-based 8000 for virtual environments and feature support for advanced routing, SD-WAN,  security and secure-access service edge (SASE)–depending on customer requirements.

The new family also serves as an upgrade path for certain Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR) stalwarts. For example, the 8000 is an improvement to the ISR 4400/4300 and the 8500 is an upgrade path for Aggregation Services Router 1001-HX/1002-HX, the company said.

“Cisco has a significant existing routing installed base, and this new WAN hardware across the Catalyst 8500/8300/8000V products will allow existing ISR/ASR customers to refresh onto the new subscription-licensing based Catalyst family, while also enabling customers to run vManage SD-WAN on a robust new routing platform,” said Brandon Butler, a senior research analyst with IDC.  

“Cisco’s announcement of a new family of Catalyst core and branch routers is an evolution of the ISR/ASR routing products into the Catalyst family. Enterprise networking is a dynamic environment today with a strong focus among enterprises on cloud, security and SD-WAN functionality,” Butler said.   “These new Catalyst 8300/8500 routers and the virtual 8000V products address these needs.”

The three models, available now, also extend and fill out Cisco’s Catalyst family from the branch to the campus and data center, including wireless and industrial boxes all with an IOS XE operating system and a number of common features such as support for Cisco’s intent-based networking technology,  analytics and security.

According to Gartner’s recent magic quadrant for WAN edge infrastructure report, “The market for branch-office WAN-edge functionality continues to rapidly shift from dedicated routing, security and WAN optimization appliances to feature-rich SD-WAN. SD-WAN is replacing traditional branch routers with application-aware path selection among multiple links, centralized orchestration and native security, as well as application performance optimization functions.”

Cisco positions the 8500 as a core data-center, colocation or aggregation router that features integrated 40G and 100G Ethernet ports. It is powered by Cisco’s third-generation Quantum Flow Processor, a proprietary application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) built to provide high-performance, pervasive security and rich network services, Cisco stated.

The Cat 8300 is targeted at branch sites, supports a variety of network modules such as server blades, and provides voice support compatible with the Cisco ISR 4000 family.

The platform makes it possible to create a fully software-defined branch, including connectivity, edge compute, and storage. Compute and switching capabilities can be added via UCS-E Series blades and UADP-powered switch modules. Application hosting is supported using containers running on the Catalyst 8300’s multi-core, high-performance x86 processor, according JL Valente, vice president of product management for Cisco’s Intent-Based Networking Group in a blog about the new gear.

Cisco said the  Catalyst 8000V Edge Software is a virtual routing platform that can run on any x86 platform, or on Cisco’s Enterprise Network Compute System or appliance in a private or public cloud.

Depending on what features customers need. the new family supports Cisco SD-WAN software, including Umbrella security software and Cisco Cloud On-Ramp that lets customers tie distributed cloud applications from AWS, Microsoft and Google back to a branch office or private data center. The platforms produce telemetry that can be used in Cisco vAnalytics to provide insights into device and fabric performance as well as spot anomalies in the network and perform capacity planning.

Configuration flexibility was one of the reasons Adventist Health went with the Cisco 8000, according to Ed Vanderpool, IT Technical Manager at Adventist Health.  The not-for-profit healthcare organization is looking to add SD-WAN technology to the network that supports its 24 hospitals, 390 clinics, and a staff of over 37,000 spread across the California, Oregon, and Hawaii.

“The 8000 was a perfect fit since we had a lot of ISR 4300s that were getting a little long-in-the-tooth plus we are looking to fully support SD-WAN in the future,” Vanderpool said.

Vanderpool’s firm has also adopted Cisco policy-based networking architecture, Application Centric Infrastructure, that the 8000 will also tie into allowing the company end-to-end security and management control.

“We are moving to a zero-trust security model, and the 8000 lets us do that as we need to–its flexibility is key,”  Vanderpool said.

As part of the rollout Cisco added the Catalyst Cellular Gateway that lets customers add wireless WAN backup  as  a primary SD-WAN link option with gigabit connectivity to any cloud or location. The initial release supports Advanced 4G LTE CAT 18 speeds, with 5G versions promised.

“This is will allow enterprises to use cellular WAN as a high-speed failover or primary connectivity method for a variety of use cases,” Butler said.