Cisco Lines Up 7600 Successor
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is believed to have started development work on a successor to its workhorse 7600 series routers, according to industry sources.
The move comes as Cisco finds itself under increasing competitive pressure from its main IP rivals in the carrier router and Ethernet aggregation markets: Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR).
Juniper has just announced its first dedicated Ethernet product, the MX series, while Alcatel unveiled the latest versions of its 7450 Ethernet Service Switch and 7710 service router in a flurry of news announcements at the Broadband World Forum Europe event in Paris last week. (See Juniper Antes Up on Ethernet (Finally) and Quigley: IMS Won't Cure All.)
While Cisco is batting away questions about a 7600 successor with the expected "no comment," industry sources say Cisco is reacting to two key pressure points: the emergence of Alcatel as another troublesome rival; and the increasingly tough technical demands being made on metro routers and switches as service providers ramp up real-time data services, especially video.
Alcatel has shaken up the IP edge aggregation market in the past 12 to 18 months. Two years ago, the name Alcatel was hardly ever muttered in the same breath as IP, but following the development of the Timetra platform acquired in May 2003, sales ramped in 2005, and Alcatel has been winning business that previously would have been contested by Cisco and Juniper.
The French vendor even overtook Juniper to claim second spot in IP edge router market share during the third quarter of 2005. (See Alcatel Router Revenues Surge and Alcatel & TiMetra Seal the Deal.)
Rick Thompson, Senior Analyst at Heavy Reading, says news that Cisco is developing a 7600 successor is to be expected, especially as Alcatel has "proven itself as a formidable competitor in the edge routing space. It wouldn't surprise me if Cisco was to lose the odd battle here and there. It's a natural market ebb and flow as a new entrant penetrates the space" that might be worrisome for Cisco, but certainly isn't "dire straits."
He adds: "Not many people would debate that the 7600 is a bit long in the tooth."
Thompson expects that "like any other routing product successor from Cisco, it will push this into existing friendly accounts first to get a foothold, and then grow it from there as the platform matures and the feature set becomes more rich."
Specific details of the new platform haven't come out yet, and the anticipated timeline for a release stretches from 2007 to 2009. One thing is clear, though -- the market is expecting Cisco to develop and deliver a 7600 replacement.
Mark Seery, an analyst with Ovum RHK Inc. , believes the 7600 is falling behind the times in terms of features in the QOS and MPLS areas, and says the box isn't necessarily the best at handling small packets, though he notes it's debatable how important that really is.
He thinks Cisco will have to move on, following up the 7600 with something new that will require fewer tradeoffs among QOS, features, and density. "Apparently, it's going to take two or three years" to bring to market, he says.
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