Cisco Makes Metro Move

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) upped the ante in the metro network market this week with the announcement of the 7600 Optical Switch Router (OSR), a product that will compete with switch-routers from Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY), and Riverstone Networks, as well as edge routers from Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) (see Cisco Announces New Router).

Big news? Yes and no. On the one hand there is nothing really new about the 7600 OSR. It's actually a combination of the switching fabric of Cisco's existing Catalyst 6500, mixed in with the Layer 3 IOS routing software from its olde worlde 7500 router. The resulting hybrid is garnished with some new and faster ATM, packet over Sonet (POS), and gigabit Ethernet interfaces at speeds ranging from OC3 (155 Mbit/s) to OC48 (2.5 Gbit/s).

“It's basically a Catalyst 6500 enterprise L3 switch that's been re-purposed to be used in the metro service provider space, like many of the other Layer 3 boxes” says Dave Passmore, research director for the Burton Group.

Cisco acknowledges that the 7600 OSR combines technology from these two product lines, but it emphasizes that it has added new features specifically for the carrier market.

“The OSR is really an extension of our routing products and allows customers to migrate to optical speeds,” says Chris McGugan, senior manager of marketing for Cisco’s Internet systems business unit. “It also provides very rich, high touch optical services that providers need.”

Some analysts like Deb Mielke, principal at Treillage Network Strategies Inc. see the new 7600 OSR as a way to fill in the gap between Cisco’s large GSR 12000 routers in the core, and the older and slower 7500 routers -- which are usually deployed in service provider points of presence (POPs). With a 256-Gbit/s switching fabric and a 30 million packet per second (pps) forwarding engine, Mielke sees the architecture working well to fill this need.

But others read the introduction of the 7600 OSR as a sign.

“Cisco seems to have finally acknowledged that the 7500 router has become obsolete for service provider networks,” says Passmore.

The new 7600 OSR can be used for basic metro aggregation, using the cheaper, high-density Catalyst 6500 interfaces, or it can be used in place of the 7500 for edge routing in a POP -- performing more advanced billing, traffic shaping, quality of service, and accounting. Cisco says that even with all these fancy features turned on, the 7600 OSR can still route at wire speed due to its Parallel Express Forwarding processors.

One advantage of the 7600 OSR’s familiar architecture is that the new chassis accepts line cards from both the Catalyst 6500 product family as well as the 7500 router. This will help users retain value in existing equipment.

“Cisco has done a great job at leveraging components from both the 6509 and the 7500 for the new box,” says Chris Kozup, research analyst with Meta Group Inc.. “If you look at the past [Catalyst 8540 and 5500] there has been little investment protection for customers wanting to move to the next-generation box.”

But there are some downsides. For one, the device doesn’t offer multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) in the first release. While many pundits point out that MPLS is still in its early stages of adoption, competitor Riverstone has already announced support for this feature in its metro products (see Riverstone Scores a Coup).

Another feature missing is support for resilient packet ring (RPR)-like protocols -- including Cisco’s own Dynamic Packet Transport (DPT) -- that will provide protection on ring-based topologies. Even though RPR hasn’t been standardized yet, the GSR 12000 and the 7500 platform both support DPT.

“ I believe the reason Cisco hasn't included MPLS or DPT in this release is due to the fact that they wanted to get this box to market so as to not lose customers,” says Kozup. “The Catalyst 6509 wasn't able to compete on the same level with competitive products from Extreme, Riverstone, and Foundry.”

-- Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading, http://www.lightreading.com

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SmartBoy 12/4/2012 | 8:51:29 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move props,

Get real.. Customers evaluate a box before buying it. I do not expect real customers to read light reading sarcastic articles and make buying decisions. I guess you are working on a product
that competes with this one. You are expecting LR to throw dirt on all other competetors so that you
look better.. They will catch you one day, when you become big..
SmartBoy 12/4/2012 | 8:51:29 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move I always find that Light Reading writes anti-Cisco articles. Even if Cisco has some good news to give to the community, light reading puts a slant and sarcasm in the article. I rarely find good articles about Cisco. Undoubtedly, Cisco is a great company that helped the Internet to come to that stage. They are working on taking this internet to next level. They deserve the credit. Stop being sarcastic and throwing dirt at this company all the time..

desade 12/4/2012 | 8:51:29 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move
Did this story have more of an anti-Cisco title and slant earlier in the day? Or was I just seeing things?
props 12/4/2012 | 8:51:29 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move No MPLS, no tracking of nascent RPR specs in their DPT, but no one will care, likely, unless the press continues to highlight these deficiencies. Good job LR.
TechnoBabble 12/4/2012 | 8:51:27 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move Has anyone got their hands on this box yet? It looks great on paper, and has the potential to kick butt in the market.

desade 12/4/2012 | 8:51:26 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move Why are Cisco people always whining? God that's annoying. Stop whining about bad press and DO SOMETHING REMARKABLE OR SHUT UP.
pablo 12/4/2012 | 8:51:23 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move
Note that I do not work for Cisco. The trade press in general is always very critical when it comes to Cisco. To a large degree, Cisco has itself to blame for that. It's marketing team has never been that great at wooing press folks, and tended to be somewhat condescending. In the good times, the march orders were "We only care about paying customers, don't like to waste time with ignorant press types".

LightReading isn't doing anything that Network Magazine or other don't do, only Light Reading does it in their usual edgier style. I don't know of any companies that escape the occasional sarcastic remark from the LR editors, really.

guru 12/4/2012 | 8:51:21 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move People slam cisco because if you have ever had to compete with them it is like taking on Microsoft. They use whatever tactics they need to win - politics, FUD, dirt.

Everyone is going to kick them while they are down. They are still a great company though and deserve respect.

I heard from people at Exodus that the new switch is pretty good. i think they have been demoing it under NDA for a while.
pablo 12/4/2012 | 8:51:20 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move
I don't think that Cisco competes any dirtier than any other company. In fact, I do still remember the days when Cisco started to try to win service providers credibility, and it was Nortel and Lucent blatantly exploiting politics to keep the newcomer out. How quickly people forget. I don't think Cisco carries half the political cloud that Nortel and Lucent used to in their heyday. Cisco in fact has paved the road for many other companies in this space, I think. And having worked @ Cisco before, I know that throwing dirt at competitors is not at all part of corporate philosophy. I do have some critical views on Cisco, some quite harsh, because I think it did miss a couple of opportunities to exploit some opportunities far more effectively, and yet I can truly not at all agree that it competes unfairly, or that it outright lies. Chambers is way too much of a gentleman to rule over such an organization.

Like everybody else, Cisco has been hit and is somewhat dazed in the ropes right now. But I do think they'll come back with phenomenal force. Think about which other company has all the end-to-end ingredients you have to mix into exciting New World infrastrcutures, and in my opinion Cisco's mix of people in a dynamic organization, technology mix through acquisition, and finally IP core expertise, comes out on top. It is not untouchablke, and it will lose some of its dominance in some segments, but it'll still be a hell of a successs story once everything is said in done 10 years down the road.
koll 12/4/2012 | 8:51:15 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move get real, mpls will be supported in the future releases. since it accepts 7500 port adapters dpt will be supported also. the only deficiencies are in your thinking.
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