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Cisco bulks up routers for carriers struggling with CDN traffic

IOS XR gets an SDN injection to help things out, too

Cisco might be turning itself into a software company, but that's a slow process, and in the meantime, the router giant still has hardware on the roadmap.

This week at YetAnotherConference™ – the MPLS+SDN+NFV World Congress in Paris – Cisco announced a suite of routing products targeting the persistently-underperforming service provider space.

In its announcement, Cisco points to growing intra-metro Internet traffic – for example, resulting from content distribution network (CDN) deployment models that cache content as close to the downloader as possible.

The announcement covers three routers, along with software upgrades.

NCS 500 Series routers target wireline, carrier Ethernet, and “5G ready” mobile deployments. There are three boxen in the series ranging from the NCS 520 10 Gbps Ethernet access device; up to the 7RU NCS 560, with 96 gigabit ports, 40 x 10 Gbps ports, and four 100 Gbps ports.

Cisco ASR 9901 targets provider edge, peering, aggregation and broadband gateway applications. Ports range from 1 to 100 Gbps with an aggregate capacity of 456 Gbps, and MACsec encryption is available on all ports.

Cisco NCS 5500 Series gets new components: a 24 port 100 Gbps Ethernet chassis, a 36 port 100 Gbps Ethernet chassis, a 36 port line card with each port configurable to 10, 25, 40 and 100 Gbps Ethernet, and a 2RU router with modular port adapters with MACsec encryption.

The three routers run the IOS XR operating system, which received two enhancements: segment routing and Ethernet VPN support.

Segment routing gives the systems software-defined network capability with what Cisco calls a “combination of centralised and distributed intelligence”.

Cisco provides a thumbnail description of segment routing here. When put together with a suitable SDN controller, traffic is routed according to step-by-step labels attached to the packet.

As engineering senior veep Sumeet Arora explains in this blog post, the release fits into a strategy to get IOS XR onto more platforms.

That fits into the company's disaggregation strategy, since as well as Cisco's own routers, the operating system can be deployed to x86 servers as a virtual router, and on a small number of third-party devices. The operating system also offers open APIs for a better fit with the world of open SDN and NFV. ®

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