Cisco Branch Router Buyer's Guide

Enhanced security, VoIP and video optimization and other features have made the branch router anything but a generic purchase these days. Here's a look at Cisco's proudest products.

 By Drew Robb
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Cisco Systems is very much king of the hill in the branch router marketplace. It has an 87 percent share of a $2.8 billion (2010) market, according to Shin Umeda, an analyst with Dell'Oro Group. When it comes to connecting to the network locally for voice, data or both, or acting as a gateway to the WAN for transmissions to and from headquarters, few CIOs look further than Cisco.

While the primary functions of the Cisco routers remain, the company has steadily been adding features such as enhanced security, LAN switching, WAN optimization and acceleration and Quality of Service (QoS). This has given rise to the all-in-one router.

"It may still be called a branch router, but it has become an all-purpose networking device," said Umeda.

Cisco's Market Take

In recent years, Cisco has been responding to trends such as the explosion of mobile devices in the workplace, the rapid adoption of cloud services and virtualization, and increasing use of video and collaboration applications, said Inbar Lasser-Raab, senior director of borderless networks at Cisco.

These trends have impacted branch routers in several ways. For example, Lasser-Raab said, there is a greater need for consistent quality of application experience as services tend to use more WAN bandwidth due to the fact that video streaming and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) have gone mainstream. Embedded security and reliability are also being demanded from branch routers, she said.

"Internet access in the branch for cloud services requires internal and external threat protection, as well as backup and survivability capabilities in case that WAN link drops," explained Lasser-Raab.

To reduce operating costs, she said, there has been a strong tendency toward consolidation of infrastructure, optimized services delivery and bandwidth optimization -- hence more all-in-one products. Consistency, too, has risen high on the priority list. Large organizations are demanding common capabilities across all branch offices to ensure they provide the same level of security, optimization and support through centralized policy and consistent set of services.

"Organization-wide visibility and control is now widely available through centralized management and troubleshooting of branch routers," said Lasser-Raab. "This is even more important these days due to limited local staff as well as support, planning and scaling for unexpected requirements."

Branch Router Selection

Cisco offers too many branch products to cover each of them in detail. They can be viewed here.

This article was originally published on Jun 23, 2011
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