Cisco rolls out branch office router, LAN switch

Cisco broadens unified communications line, too

Cisco this week is unveiling a raft of products designed to allow customers to implement a consistent set of security, unified communications, application acceleration and wireless services at remote sites.

The offerings include a router, switch, messaging gateway, intrusion prevention system, application acceleration module, and routing software and wireless LAN controller enhancements. The new and enhanced products are intended to address the growing population of office workers located at corporate branches, and the increasing sophistication and complexity of the applications and devices they use.

"Year-over-year you see companies trying to drive more consistent services to the branch," says Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala. "If you look historically at branch architecture it's always been kind of ad hoc -- you'd wind up in one branch with a set of services and then another branch with a different set of services. That creates a lot of inconsistency in workflow and things like that. What a lot of companies want to do is make sure the experience in the branch and the applications and the services that are there are consistent from location to location."

The new router is an addition to Cisco's Integrated Services Router (ISR) line, of which the company has shipped 3 million units since their launch in 2004. The 1861 ISR combines unified communications and security in a fixed-configuration device for up to eight users.

Users can add Cisco's Unified Communications Manager Express 4.2 and Unity Express 2.3 for Survivable Remote Site Telephony (SRST) 4.2 as options to the 1861 to enable secure unified communications at the branch office on a single platform, according to Cisco.

For added ISR security, Cisco also unveiled its Intrusion Prevention System Advanced Integration Module (IPS AIM). This is designed to identify, classify and stop malicious traffic from the Internet and reduce wide-area network link overload from infected hosts at the branch.

SRST 4.2 has also been enhanced with E-911 emergency response calling capability. Unity Express has been upgraded to include a collection of management-simplification enhancements, increased security mechanisms, improved messaging features and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) self-service for customer service at the branch.

Unified Communications Manager Express 4.2 has been enhanced with new voice security features, extension mobility within the branch, and the addition of call center capabilities through interoperability with Cisco Unified Contact Center Express 5.0.

The new switch is the Catalyst 2960 with LAN Lite Cisco IOS software. The switches sport 24 to 48 100Mbps Ethernet ports and, together with the software, are intended to ease migration from non-intelligent hubs and unmanaged switches to scalable managed switches with entry-level security, quality of service (QoS) and availability.

The Cisco Unified Messaging Gateway features scalable directory services for new releases of Cisco's Unity and Unity Express voicemail systems. The gateway provides intelligent routing for voicemail messages and exchanging subscriber and directory information among up to 10,000 voice mail systems.

An enhancement to Cisco's IOS routing software is called Performance Routing (PfR). It is designed to allow organizations to optimize network routes by monitoring the Internet traffic, performance bottlenecks and overall conditions.

For application acceleration, Cisco unveiled the Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) Network Module (NME-WAE 522) for the company's 3800 ISR. This module is designed to enable customers to consolidate branch servers and storage into data centers, and deploy new applications centrally while still offering LAN-like performance for remote users, according to Cisco.

Lastly, Cisco announced support for the IEEE 802.11n specification in its Wireless LAN Controller modules for the 2800 and 3800 ISRs. This software upgrade is intended to increase throughput and improve network reliability and predictability.

The 802.11n draft 2.0 standard has the potential to offer five times the performance of current wireless networks. Cisco recently unveiled an 802.11n compliant WLAN access point.

The Cisco 1861 ISR is available starting at US$3,995. The Catalyst 2960 LAN Lite Series Switches are available starting at $995.

The Unified Messaging Gateway is scheduled to be available in November, starting at US$9,000 for 250 nodes. TheIPS AIM is scheduled to be available in November, starting at US$3,000.

The Cisco PfR software is available now. The Wide Area Application Services Network Module NME 522 is available now starting at an introductory promotional price ofUS$6,950 with transport license and US$9,950 with enterprise license.

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