Cisco New Routers - Everything but the Kitchen Sink

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Tom Keating
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Cisco New Routers - Everything but the Kitchen Sink

It seems everyone is talking about Cisco’s new routers that were launched today, so I may as well jump in with my comments as well. I’m going to take a more VoIP focused angle than the other news stories I’ve seen on Cisco’s announcement. I just got off a phone briefing with Cisco to discuss their new routers.
Essentially, today Cisco introduced what they are terming the new "Cisco Integrated Services Router Portfolio". The basic aim of the new line of routers is “our goal is an integrated systems approach to embedded services speeds IP communications deployments, while reducing operating costs and complexity.”

It’s a Router, it’s an IP-PBX, and it’s Voicemail All Rolled In One…
The new router line features secure voice, call processing, voicemail, auto attendant, voice trunks, transcoding, and conferencing – all in one integrated platform. Cisco has thrown everthing but the kitchen sink into their new routers!

Indeed they have embedded and integrated functionality for deployment flexibility, including motherboard digital signal processing slots for voice/fax modules, Cisco CallManager Express call processing, Cisco Unity Express voicemail and auto attendant, voice module for increased analog & BRI densities, as well as voice signaling encryption via embedded Virtual Private Network (VPN) hardware. They’ve also added DSP flexibility by letter customers choose the number of DSPs they need. In addition, it now has support for the Cisco Communicator and the cool Cisco 7970 Color Phone, as seen here:
Cisco 7970 phone

Further, I have learned that Cisco is preparing Linux-based cards to go with the new routers, allowing them to run applications not based on the company's Internetwork Operating System (IOS). To power all of this “included” functionality, Cisco has definitely added some “punch” to their new router line. The new line has 5X better voice density, 7X performance, and 4X memory - all while bringing down the price point to compete with Juniper Networks which recently acquired Netscreen Technologies. But here’s the key difference - while Juniper Networks does a good job of integrating firewall, VPN, intrusion detection, anti-virus, and other security mechanisms, there is one thing sorely lacking. Take a wild guess….   they’re lacking VoIP support. That’s a big piece of the puzzle that Cisco has neatly integrated into their product line. I for one cannot think of a single major router company other than Cisco that has advanced VoIP support!

Take a look at Cisco Call Manager Express v2.0 features which is installed on these new routers and enabled via license keys. It comes in two flavors:
Advanced Integration Module

14 hours of voice message storage (beginning with Release 2.0)

Up to 4 simultaneous sessions/ports

Shipping since April 2004

Supported on Cisco 2801, 2811, 2821, 2851 and 2691, 2600XM, 3700

Lower entry platform and price point

Network Module

100 hours of voice message storage

Up to 8 simultaneous sessions/ports

20GB IDE Hard Drive

Shipping since September 2003

Supported on Cisco 2811, 2821, 2851 and 3800 as well as Cisco 2691, 2600XM, 3700

One of the knocks against Cisco has always been price.
Well, Cisco certainly impressed me in the phone briefing. Take a look at this chart:

Number of IP Telephony Users2432
CallManager Express/SRST License3648
CUE (Voice Mail /AA)1824
Conferencing /Transcoding4/46/6
Typical router for data17602611
Platform needed with IPT37253745
Price of Base Chassis$8500$12,000
Price per Seat (for Chassis)$354$372
Integrated Service Router28112821
Price of Base Chassis$2,495$3,895
Price per seat (for Chassis)$103$121

Look at the 2nd example - 2nd column.  You will see two red numbers, $12,000 vs $3,895.  Both of these numbers are for a 32-port IP telephony system, with 48 CallManager Express/SRT licenses, 24 voicemail boxes, and 6 conference/transcoding licenses on a base chassis.

The only difference? The $12,000 is for the old product line and the $3,895 is for the new product line. So essentially, you save $12,000 - $3,895 = $8105 savings with the new router line which ALSO has more integrated features/functionality as previously mentioned.  I had to do a double-take on the phone with Cisco, "So wait a minute, you're offering more features, more functionality, AND you're offering it at a lower cost?".  Cisco told me they've done a lot of work building these routers from the ground up and optimizing the components to get this price-point.  Me thinks they also needed to compete with those young whippersnappers like Juniper, Netscreen, and others! : )

Take a look at this price-chart as well:

Cisco Comparison Chart

Look at these numbers - do you realize that these price points mean? It means Cisco is getting into the SOHO VoIP market BIG TIME!  Did you hear me? Let me spell it out, just in case you didn't hear me, "Cisco is getting into the small office, home office space and small to medium-sized businesses with VoIP/IP-PBX functionality in a big way!".  I can't tell you how many times I've been contacted by readers of my blog, the VoIP Forums, or readers of my articles in Internet Telephony Magazine asking me, "Do you have any SOHO VoIP products you can recommend to me?  I'm a small shop of only 10 employees and would like to use VoIP."  Well, until now, you had some small VoIP players in this space, but now it looks like Cisco is going gangbusters in the SOHO VoIP space. The new Cisco router series with integrated station & trunk-side processing, integrated VoIP built-in, and integrated voice processing (auto-attendant, IVR, voicemail) via CallManager Express is virtually a "plug and play" small business VoIP-enabled PBX system!  Finally, Mom & Pops shops can get a VoIP offering without breaking the piggybank...

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