New Cisco Routers Reach Smaller Customers

In an effort to defend its dominance in router technology, Cisco has released three new multifeature routers aimed at smaller businesses and branch offices.

The new routers, known as the 1800, 2800 and 3800, represent an upgrade from Cisco’s previous offerings and also highlight an emerging class of competition for business networking gear.

The main players in this niche so far include competitors such as Juniper, 3Com, Foundry and others, according to Yankee Group senior analyst Zeus Kerravala.

“You could say that the router wars are on,” Kerravala told TechNewsWorld.

VoIP and Other Features

The new Cisco routers, to be unveiled officially Tuesday, will offer Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and security capabilities in addition to traditional routing features.

They also take networking giant Cisco into the lower-end market. In this market, smaller companies look for entry-level, multipurpose technologies that can take the place of several separate devices.

The Cisco router release also was viewed by analysts as a direct response to Juniper’s partnership with Intel in delivering a low-cost, enterprise router earlier this year.

Changing Router Role

Kerravala said that although Cisco has owned nearly all of the enterprise market, it is now getting competition from several rivals, which are delivering basic, entry-level technologies to a hungry market of smaller businesses.

Kerravala agreed with Cisco senior vice president Mike Volpi’s assessment that a router is no longer just a router in the traditional sense of directing network traffic.

“It’s a multiservices box that has routing capability,” Kerravala said.

Preventing Poaching

The new 1800, 2800 and 3800 routers from Cisco will reportedly boost speed at the processing level — in comparison to earlier routers — and will be accompanied by new software applications to allow for VoIP, virtual private networks (VPNs) and security measures such as network monitoring and firewall capabilities.

Kerravala said the Cisco move was a necessary one and “stops from having their business poached by the other players.”

The analyst added that the new routers also represent an advancement of technology that replaces numerous, disparate devices with a single, more flexible and efficient one.

Hardware Evolution

Meta Group senior analyst David Willis said the new routers from Cisco were meant to keep pace with the company’s Internet Operating System (IOS) strategy.

“Look upon this as an evolution in the hardware side of it, and that’ll allow Cisco to run features that were in IOS without affecting performance,” Willis told TechNewsWorld. “So it’s a way of catching up to where they’ve been going with the software.”

Willis agreed that today’s router is evolving beyond the traditional router role.

“The products themselves now are becoming more multipurpose — you see the security features, you see the dynamic VPN features which are interesting, and the other support that goes with IOS,” Willis said. “Things like Call Manager Express as an example, that basically says this is general-purpose hardware with multipurpose software on it.”

“It’s more of a software play than anything else,” he added.

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