The market has been commenting on the rise of Juniper for some years and the fact that Cisco has not been able to stop them growing. Well, we can now see that Cisco was listening to the stock market by spending a lot of time and money developing a new operating system. Oh yeah, and some new hardware to run it on. Read all about the Cisco ASR 1000 here.
IOS performance limits
Its been clear for a long time that the conventional IOS had hit a wall in performance. The monolithic kernel has been subjected to any number of hacks to improve performance (fast switching, CEF) but ultimately, it obviously had to be discarded and a new approach built that supported modularity, improved upgrade, and other serviceability features. This has seen the release of NXOS (Nexus 7000), IOS XR (CRS-1) and now IOS XE for the ASR1000. You can probably also include IOS SX as used in C6500 and other switches as another.
Where now for network design
What might this mean for Network design and architecture ? For the next year or two, it is mostly business as usual. Cisco likes to announce products with only limited functionality in the early stages to mark out their turf, so you probably shouldn’t rush to buy one unless you have some form of passionate belief in the product. For example, BT have announced that the ASR 1000 will revolutionise some part of their network and they are going to buy lots of them. (No doubt with a nice discount and a lot of hand holding by Cisco).
One concern is how quickly the Network Management tools will adapt and adopt new measurement and management. The new operating systems means that traditional methods of network system monitoring will need revision. Since Windows Server 2008 might be released soon, budget for software upgrades is going to be tight.
A second concern is whether they will work as advertised. Cisco has made enormous changes to software testing and the number of problems with IOS is a fraction of years gone by, but still……
The new IOS versions offer us a lot of benefits. The focus on ISSU for specific software modules, running two versions for roll forward / roll back capability, checkpointing are welcome changes to the IOS strategy. I look forward to spending less time performing upgrades in the middle of night.
Reluctant to criticise IOS – but why so long ?
I won’t criticise IOS for its past limitations, as they were necessary at the time. Remember that IOS was developed at a time of 2 MB flash RAM, 4 MB DRAM and performance was not an issue when 128 kbps was king. I will however, be critical of why has it taken Cisco so long to modernise and update their core business ?
Cisco claims that it took five years to develop this new system. We had similar comments about the Nexus 7000. In my mind, Cisco should have had these products in place about two years ago. Procket was acquired in 2004 and formed the basis of the new ASR1000. Cisco has regularly been feted by the technology press as a leader in buying startups and integrating their assets, but this isn’t necessarily a shining example of speed to market or responding to customer’s needs.
So farewall IOS, its been a ten year relationship and its been sweet, if a little tiring and slow. l am sure to be spending time with the new systems and finding out about all their idiosyncrasies and foibles. I have been dating other network systems though while you were putting on your makeup and I won’t be forgetting them in a hurry.