Cisco’s Sliding But Still Dominates Routers

If you play word association with a network administrator and say “router,” the chances are pretty high that the response you get back will be “Cisco.”

This doesn’t reflect a lack of imagination on the part of NAs, it’s just that Cisco Systems has a vast share of the router market – about 58 per cent according to San Jose, CA-based research house Infonetics. Cisco, also based in San Jose, addresses the SOHO market with its Linksys division, and the SMB, enterprise and service provider markets with its bewildering range of Cisco products. Although Cisco’s share of the overall router market has been falling sharply over the last 12 months – no doubt to the delight of rival Juniper Networks – Cisco still the lion’s share of the enterprise router market, which Juniper has as yet failed to penetrate significantly.

Also on Cisco at ENP

In the enterprise space the models that matter cater for branch and head offices – which effectively means the new 1800, 2800, and 3800 series Integrated Services Routers (ISRs) in branches and the 7200 series routers at head office.

The new branch office routers build on the older and perhaps more familiar 1700, 2600, and 3700 series multiservice access routers, but have been redesigned from the ground up, with the result that they are both cheaper and offer higher performance than their predecessors.

As the name suggests, the integrated services routers offer a range of services built in to the router, including telephony and call processing (except in the 1800) and security management including hardware encryption acceleration, IPSec VPN, and URL filtering. Most importantly, all these extra services can be switched on without having a negative impact on the underlying performance of the router itself – all services can operate while the router is forwarding packets at line speed, Cisco claims.

“In the past, services have been rolled out at head offices, but many companies now want to push out these services to branches,” says Neil Walker, a Cisco Systems router product manager. “These Integrated Services Routers enable the rollout of services deeper into the enterprise without any performance hit.”

The 1800 series is targeted at smaller branch offices which may have a T1 or E1 connection, and can at run up to a 2mbps throughput. The 2800 is aimed at companies with larger branches, using multiple T1, E1 or DSL links, while the 3800, not surprisingly, is more powerful still, with up to a T3 or E3 capacity.

Platform Description OS / Hardware Capacity Services
1841 ISR Small branch office router Cisco IOS T1/E1 Includes: support for 90 existing and new modules. On-board encryption. Support for 800 VPN tunnels. Network Admission Control (NAC). Intrusion Prevention. IOS firewall
2801 ISR Medium branch office router Cisco IOS 4 T1 circuits (max recommended) Includes: On-board encryption, up to 800 VPN tunnels, IOS firewall. Mid/high density analog/digital voice with IP telephony, voice mail, optional Layer 2 switching support with Power over Ethernet,
2811 ISR As above Cisco IOS As above Includes: As above plus support for up to 1500 VPN tunnels and greater IP telephony capacity including local call processing in branch office for up to 36 IP phones
2821 ISR As above Cisco IOS As above As above plus dedicated extension voice module slot. Greater IP telephony capacity including local call processing in branch office for up to 48 IP phones
2851 ISR As above Cisco IOS As above As above plus greater IP telephony capacity including local call processing in branch office for up to 96 IP phones
3825 ISR Larger branch / regional office router Cisco IOS Half T3 / E3 Includes: as above, plus Integrated GE ports with copper and fiber support. Supports 36 port Etherswitch module. Up to 2000 VPN tunnels. Greater IP telephony support including local call processing in branch office for up to 336 IP phones
3845 ISR As above Cisco IOS Full T3/E3 Includes: as above, plus support for 2500 VPN tunnels and greater IP telephony support including local call processing in branch office for up to 720 IP phones
7204 VXR and 7206 VXR Head office enterprise router Cisco IOS Up to 1Gbps Includes: Multi-protocol routingIPv4, IPv6, Internetwork Packet Exchange (IPX)

  • Security — Stateful firewall; intrusion prevention system (IPS); hardware encryption for IP Security (IPSec); Network Address Translation (NAT); access control list (ACL); and authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA)
  • Data, voice, and video integration
  • Quality of service (QoS)
  • Broadband aggregation (L2TP network server [LNS] and L2TP access concentrator [LAC])
  • Dynamic Multipoint VPNs (DMVPNs)
  • 4 (7204) or 6 (7206) port adapter slots

A likely scenario for a large organization is to have multiple 1800 devices aggregating in to 2800s, aggregating in turn to 3800s, connecting to a 7200 series head office router.

The routers in the new ISR range all run Cisco IOS and are highly modular so that each device can effectively be customized. All have a central data pump – an Asic-based packet forwarding engine – and a Motorola PowerPC CPU which runs service modules and spends its life providing higher order functions such as voice and security services. Extra slots are provided in the router for additional cards supporting services like advanced encryption hardware and network analysis.

Walker believes that by building complex routers that incorporate multiple network services, it paradoxically makes life simpler. “With an integrated services router, you can add voice, data, security, firewalls, and remote administration to a single device. Just like any router, if you pour coffee down the back of it by mistake it will break, but if you have two, you have fantastic resilience. If you had routing, switching, security, IPPBX devices separately you would need five devices, and ten for redundancy. So now you can drive these services out to remote branch offices, where previously you wouldn’t dream of it.”

Paul Rubens
Paul Rubens
Paul Rubens is a technology journalist specializing in enterprise networking, security, storage, and virtualization. He has worked for international publications including The Financial Times, BBC, and The Economist, and is now based near Oxford, U.K. When not writing about technology Paul can usually be found playing or restoring pinball machines.

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