Cisco today announced that every Cisco ASR 9000 router that it has shipped is eligible for an upgrade to a fourth-generation network processor via a new line card. But perhaps the bigger news is that Cisco has changed the software licensing of the ASR 9K so that licenses can be pooled across networks rather than tied to specific sites.
Cisco has been shipping its ASR 9K routers for nearly 10 years. About 4,500 customers have purchased the platform, with more than 90,000 systems having shipped.
Sumeet Arora, SVP of engineering for Cisco’s service provider business, said the ASR 9K routers are the “Swiss Army Knife of networking” because they’re used for many roles in the service provider network from the core, to aggregation points, to the access.
With new 100GE line cards that Cisco is introducing today, the ASR 9K routers can be updated without having to replace the whole hardware chassis. The new line cards incorporate Cisco’s fourth-generation network processor unit — silicon that was designed in house by Cisco.
In addition to the new line cards, the upgrades are made possible with enhancements to Cisco’s IOS XR network operating system. Arora said the line cards and IOS XR enhancements allow ASR 9K customers to keep their existing chassis, which saves investment in hardware. “A lot of times we see others announce the innovation of new silicon, but they ask you to change your chassis,” he said.
Arora said Cisco has a track record of helping its customers retain their hardware. Just recently for example, Cisco announced that many of its routers could be updated for SD-WAN with a Viptela software upgrade.
Flexible Software Licenses
The bigger news today is that the ASR 9K software can be purchased with a more flexible consumption model.
In the past, customers would buy hardware and the associated software for a location. And the software licenses would be tied to and tracked for that location. Arora said it was difficult to track the licenses, and it was difficult for customers to do capacity planning. Today, Cisco is allowing its customers to consume ASR 9K licensing at the networking level as opposed to the site level. And they can buy as they consume.
Since Chuck Robbins took over as CEO of Cisco in 2015, he has made a big push to transition the company to a stronger focus on software. And today’s news advances that goal.
In terms of the ASR 9K, Arora, said, “We are launching the fourth-generation silicon today. When we come out with fifth-generation silicon, they can port the license. It gives the ability to port your software investment across multiple hardware generations. This is tied to Cisco’s focus on software. Software and hardware can be purchased with a different consumption model.”
The new license pooling allows ports on the new generation line cards to be activated on-demand, within deployed or new ASR 9000 chassis. Licenses can be dynamically allocated as needed across global networks.