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Cisco unveils long-awaited new edge router

Cisco’s new ASR 9000 aggregator bears much in common with its core router

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In a late-October research note, Oppenheimer analysts, having heard rumors of the XR-based edge router, warned, “We believe this would likely put the new router at a feature disadvantage relative to Juniper's MX, given that the IOS-XR has yet to fully support edge features.”

But Mota said the 9000, sitting further upstream in the network and in more complex multiservice environments than the 1000, needed a robust, sophisticated operating system like the XR. In fact, he said, the 9000 is so much more like Cisco’s core router than it is like the 1000 that he wonders if the 9000 and the CRS-1 will be too similar in customers’ eyes – especially the smaller version of the CRS-1 introduced two years ago.

“What does this mean for CRS-1?” Mota said. “They’re kind of close from a capacity perspective. It could confuse the market, at least for the lower end CRS-1 product.”

Another important feature of the 9000 is its ability to support either Layer 2 or Layer 3 functions within the same line card, giving carriers the flexibility to establish their own preferred balance of the two technologies. Cisco, which has seen Alcatel-Lucent gain market share with a pair of separate products – an Ethernet switch and an IP/MPLS router – can now boast that it offers carriers the same mix of Layer 2 and Layer 3 but in the same module.

“If you’re not quite sure what you want and the price isn’t that much different for Layer 2, why not get a Layer 2/Layer 3 card in there – you’re protecting your capabilities for the future,” Mota said.

The 9000 supports native Ethernet VLAN switching, spanning tree, pseudowires, hierarchical quality of service and SyncE for mobile backhaul. But despite its Layer 2 repertoire, one Layer 2 edge capability the product does not support is one being promoted by rivals Alcatel-Lucent and Nortel Networks this year: Provider Backbone Bridging.

“The customers we’re working with have much more of a focus on MPLS,” said Doug Webster, senior director of service provider marketing for Cisco. “PBB is still a new technology that gets a lot of attention but not much deployment.”

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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