Cisco's $250 Million Routing Play
March 4, 2008
By Sean Michael Kerner

Networking giant Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) is spending a quarter of a billion
dollars on a new routing platform that could change the entire networking
landscape. Cisco's new Aggregation Services Router (ASR) 1000 platform is
a WAN (define)aggregation platform that includes firewall, Session Border
Control (SBC), VPN and other core networking features.

"This is a new category of Router that will completely change how
enterprise will look at their WAN edge and Internet gateway places in
their network," Ben Goldman, a director of network systems for Cisco, told .

The ASR 1000 also marks the debut of Cisco's new QuantumFlow
microprocessor, which Goldman boasted is the most advanced piece of
networking silicon ever created. The QuantumFlow is a 40 core processor
that can run 48 billion instructions per second.

"The QuantumFlow is designed to have speed and efficiency of an ASIC
(application specific integrated circuit) with the flexibility of a
microprocessor," Goldman explained. "It's fully programmable in C and lets
us take IOS and other services and run at line rate of 10GbE and beyond."
P>Goldman noted that the emergence of the QuantumFlow does not negate the
need for ASICs in general. ASICs will continue to have a place in the
network, the QuantumFlow however solves some other problems such as
scalability and service availability.

The ASR 1000 also marks the debut of Cisco's IOS XE operating system,
which virtualizes IOS and enables high speed services at the edge of
networks. Jonathan Davidson of Cisco's midrange routing business unit
explained that IOS XE gives users the ability to run two versions of IOS
on a simple piece of hardware.

The ability to run two versions enables failover for both devices as well
as downtime mitigation. Davidson noted that with IOS XE an enterprise
could have, say, a version a and b of software running and then, in the
event of a problem or a crash, the second version could take over in less
than 50 milliseconds. The second version can also be helpful in a testing
scenario where the user is running one version as a live production case
and the second is a testing case.

IOS XE is also an innovation that takes advantage of Linux at its core.
"IOS XE is actually IOS that has been put on top of a Linux kernel,"
Davidson said.

Davidson noted that Cisco is using a 'plain vanilla' Linux kernel and not
something from any specific Linux vendor or distribution.

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