Routers Are Facing Extinction: Let’s Not Save Them
Routers are everywhere. There are literally gazillions of them. They overpopulate every type of network, not to mention the old ones that are past their use-by date and being constantly being consigned to the scrapheap. I have a whole heap of these -- need one?
The fact is that routers roam across every network unchallenged -- they have thrived in a more traditional, primitive IT age. The dinosaurs of the connectivity world, if you will. And much like the dinosaurs, routers are facing extinction -- and I see no need to save them.
In fact the overpopulation of routers is at the very heart of their demise. Service providers have become so used to deploying them that they have almost forgotten what they're for. Most of the routers that live in networks today are massively underutilized. They are often placed as simple demarcation devices for basic aggregation, or, more embarrassingly, deployed as "Shadow Routers" when the primary router isn't man enough for simple monitoring functions.
Routing has always been unnecessary at the service edge: Consider a basestation connected by a single backhaul link, or a business with a single access line. What's the point of a router when there is only one possible "route" to take? It's like a traffic cop directing traffic to go straight on down a one-way street. It's a good "make work" project and might go unnoticed if service providers had money and time to spare. We all know they don't.
Fashionable lingo across the telecom industry is currently based on phrases and trends such as "streamlining," "flexibility," "agility," and the need to "drive out cost" and "radically enhance the delivery of new services." Today's virtualized network reality is built on the white box and will herald a new ice age for the router.
There are many ways to eliminate routers and nudge them along towards extinction. Virtualizing them is one popular strategy. Centralizing them is another. We prefer a kinder, more gentle approach. Like giving unwanted clothes to those in need, we started the first not-for-profit "Router Relocation Service." We try to find them homes where they will feel useful and become fully utilized again. We're sending them back to the data centers, central offices and other locations where they can actually route traffic and rebuild their self-esteem.
From what we have seen from our own direct experience, we believe that replacing routers with capable vCPE edge strategies can drive out 90% of the cost and complexity routers introduce. Routers are a lot like a boat-car -- versatile, but neither a great boat nor a great car. A proper vCPE strategy can, I believe, actively overcome this identity crisis plaguing routers and take great strides towards dramatically improving performance.
So that's it. The extinction of routers is likely to be less explosive and less immediately definitive than the fate of the dinosaurs, but it is no less inevitable. It's such a shame that such a once pivotal piece of network engineering seems destined to be phased out -- it almost deserves a more dramatic finale. I wonder if I could get a giant asteroid on eBay?
— Scott Sumner, VP solutions marketing, Accedian Networks