Cisco, Sprint Renew Vows
The extension was announced in April but got buried under the fanfare for the XR 12000, an edge router designed around the IOS XR modular operating system that powers Cisco's CRS-1 core router (see Cisco's CRS-1 Gets Edgy). Cisco is putting the spotlight on Sprint this time by noting that Sprint is the first carrier to receive a new Cisco VPN quality of service (QOS) certification (see Cisco Certifies Sprint).
It all means Sprint is prepared to continue being a Cisco showcase, particularly when it comes to advanced technologies. Sprint is committed to consolidating its older networks into a single Internet Protocol (IP)/Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) core, a concept all equipment vendors including Cisco are pushing, and the renewed alliance means Sprint will continue using Cisco's equipment for the transition (see Incumbents Converge on Convergence).
Sprint frequently gets mentioned as a customer when Cisco trots out new products (see Cisco Ships OC192). Last year, for instance, Sprint was the first customer to announce the purchase of a CRS-1, although it's believed Sprint isn't yet using the router in a production network (see Cisco Unveils the HFR and Sprint Throttles Up Cisco's CRS-1).
"We've had a long history with Cisco, going back to the early 90s," says Randy Ritter, vice president of product management for Sprint.
That's allowed Sprint to help steer some of Cisco's product plans. Regarding that IP/MPLS core, for instance, Sprint was able to add MPLS to routers like the GSR 12000 without having to buy new chassis. "Cisco made changes in IOS to make that possible," Ritter says. (IOS is the company's original Internetwork Operating System.)
Given that the relationship was never in question, the effect of the extension is largely cosmetic. Cisco gets most of the benefit from the announcement, because it's getting the thumbs-up from a major customer, says Ray Mota, chief research officer at Synergy Research Group Inc.
Cisco also can bank on continued testimonials for products like the IOS XR, which is percolating down to the edge of the network through products like the recently announced XR 12000 router (see Cisco's CRS-1 Gets Edgy). "It's important for Cisco to let the world know the new modular operating system is being deployed with a customer like Sprint," Mota says.
Separately, Sprint is receiving Cisco's IP VPN Multiservice QOS Certified status, a certification level similar to the "Cisco Powered Network" designation. It tells enterprises that a carrer meets a certain standard for QOS guarantees, as defined by Cisco and verified by a third party. The idea is to get enterprise and commercial customers to "feel a little bit more confident about what's behind the network cloud," says Jeff Spagnola, Cisco's vice president of service provider marketing.
Sprint wants to be able to give customers that assurance, particularly when it comes to applications such as VOIP. "We feel customers are going to demand real-time performance for their applications," Ritter says.
On a less formal level, Cisco is holding up Sprint as an example of an IP Next-Generation Network (IP NGN). "We're using that account as a reference point" Spagnola says. This means Sprint is rolling out new services for IP and all that, but the most important factor is that only an all-Cisco network counts for IP NGN.
Cisco trotted out the IP NGN concept late last year. Company officials deny it's a counterattack to Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) and its Infranet concept, which describes networks that work together to automatically ensure QOS and security for applications (see Cisco Unveils IP NGN Strategy and Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps).
The Infranet idea got Juniper quite a bit of attention, especially once the company founded the Infranet Initiative Council (IIC) to develop methods for making the Infranet a reality. Cisco refused to join, so at the behest of carriers, IIC members regrouped into the IPsphere Forum, a similar organization but with ties to a yet-unchosen standards body. The change was enough to get Cisco and fellow holdout Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) to join (see Infranet Becomes IPsphere).
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading