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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pingu 12/4/2012 | 8:51:04 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move Any whinger can make complaints to the FCC or the SEC. Whether these complaints hold any water is another matter entirely, however. Companies which run crying to the government to "protect" them are usually crap companies IMO.

I find the critical reporting from LightReading to be a refreshing change from the managed corporate PR flow. The LightReading guys are JOURNALISTS, first and foremost. That means they go out and ask tough questions and try to get to the bottom of a story, with or without a company's stamp of approval.

This story on Cisco is a perfect case in point. I don't know whether or not Marguerite Reardon is an expert in fiber optics or telecommunications, but she clearly is a good journalist. She chose a timely topic, solicited the opinions of a variety of credible sources, and wrote a balanced, informative piece.

Her piece was informed largely by what she learned from three analysts: Dave Passmore, research director for the Burton Group, Deb Mielke, principal at Treillage Network Strategies Inc; and Chris Kozup, research analyst with Meta Group Inc. These three gave a mix of positive and negative comments.

But NO ONE here seems to have anything to say about these people Marguerite cited, just that LightReading has slammed Cisco in five articles. Several posters here somehow think that being "balanced" means that if you write three negative articles about Cisco, you need to write three positive articles too.

The writing at LightReading sometimes can be sensationalistic, but any good reader should be able to discount this accordingly and still find golden nuggets of information that CANNOT be found elsewhere.

pingu 12/4/2012 | 8:51:03 PM

Tell me, Stan, which magazines are not businesses?

EVERY article "is based on heresay, innuendo, gossip, rumors...and, yes, VESTED INTERESTS"?!?!? That charge is phrased in such a ludicrous and unbalanced manner that it PROVES you are NOT CREDIBLE at all!! I mean, really.

Also, why don't you share the research you've apparently done which links LightReading's "preferential coverage" with its "vested interests"? Or do you just prefer innuendo yourself?

Respectfully or not,
metroman 12/4/2012 | 8:51:03 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move A couple of points for the non-indoctrinated masses:

The point that Cisco should advertise seems to suggest that, because you invest money in someone they will be favourable about your product. How short your memory is, remember "Vendor Financing" how much did lose on that one?

If by waving cash under the noses of magazines you think you will get better treatment; what you are saying is that your product sucks. If your product was any good you would get good reviews.

Tell me one point from the Lightreading report into this product that is inaccurate? Well?

Abandon Cisco the ship has run-aground and the Stock option refugees are leaving. Stop being so arrogant, wake up and smell the coffee. If you want respect from your peers, build a decent product, lose graciously and learn from the success of others. If you don't then it's curtains for the Big C.
erry 12/4/2012 | 8:51:01 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move Hi:

Hope you enjoyed the humour. Willing to stop the antics, however, to the lr/x882 crowd - no more midnight dingdong ditch - the authorities know, and so will all of shr/the world if you keep this up. We all have friends.

Over and out 4 good,
SPARKLE 12/4/2012 | 8:51:01 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move Subject line is the bulk of content regarding this guy. It appears as though he not only can't contribute positively to a given situation but feels he must try to impress other readers

Hey Terry, who do you work for so my friends and I can avoid you/them like the plague?

Get a life dude.
metroman 12/4/2012 | 8:50:46 PM
re: Cisco Makes Metro Move It's obvious who Terry works for.

SteveS said "my dear colleagues at Cisco" in reference to the poor treatment they were getting at the hands of Lightreading. This was with a view to advertising on the site to get better press.

In response Terry said "WE should not advertise here". And then there was a typically arrogant comment about the others withering on the vine.
All I can tell you is that the rest of the industry is the Premier Cru to your Asti Spumanti.
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