Tight network budgets make it increasingly difficult for end users to keep up with Cisco product lifecycles with the vendor's announcement it will stop selling 2600 series routers in March next year.
Brisbane City Council network manager Eric Bradley said Cisco is becoming "pretty aggressive" with its end-of-life program and a lot of products are being phased out.
Cisco announced last week it will stop selling 2600 series routers on March 27, 2007 and support for the devices is scheduled to end on March 25, 2012.
"It's disappointing that a product which costs an absolute fortune can be phased out so quickly," Bradley said, adding it is going to end-of-life a product and cut support a "couple of years" after its last 2600 purchase.
The council has about 1000 routers spread across some 200 sites and while most 2600 series have been upgraded to the 2800 models, a few still remain.
"Networking is at the lower end of the budgetary cycle and at about $5500 for current 2800 models the hardware and software is expensive," Bradley said. "You also have to buy the IOS software. Like Microsoft, they make money out of it."
Bradley is impressed with the specifications of the new Integrated Services Router (ISR), but "it will be a while before I buy it", because "it's just outside of our stream at this stage".
Bradley believes Cisco's end-of-life strategy is pushing everyone into the upper end of the market and because IT doesn't have the "budgetary expanse", it's hard to keep up with the networking giant.
"Buy the lower-end stuff if you only want to do the basics," he said. "If you want to do the smarts, which most people want to do, you have to go with enterprise or better."
With a refresh rate of about 100 routers a year, Bradley said the council will "definitely have to look at competitors in that space" to ensure it is getting the best value for money.
"By the time the end of support dates arrive, hopefully we will have most refreshed," he said.
Regarding the ISR's new VoIP features, Bradley said this may be useful, but the council is experiencing success with existing equipment for a 50-user trial. If approved, the council could have as many as 6000 people using VoIP.
Cisco senior systems engineer Martin Lindeman said the ISR is the fourth generation of the company's branch router technology which is revised about every five years.
"It's all about migration and not about a big-bang or forcing customers to upgrade to make their lives difficult," Lindeman said, adding that for the same price, the ISR has better specs and more features than the 2600 series.
"We wouldn't use a stick but always a carrot, [and] people have voted with their wallets," he said. "Today IP is the underlying infrastructure,e but it's all about delivering services like voice, video, and power over Ethernet.
"The ISR can do all that in the one device and get excellent performance. The expectations of the market have moved on."
Cisco claims to have already sold about 20,000 ISR appliances locally since it's launch in 2004.
Workhorse platform a proven cash cow
The 2600 has been a workhorse platform for business networks and a cash cow for Cisco, with more than two million units sold. But the ISR line, introduced in 2004, has already reached more than $US1 billion in sales for Cisco, and the vendor has shipped more than 500,000 ISRs - the fastest single product run rate in the company's history. Cisco's ISR success is attributed to its older 1700, 2600 and 3600 series routers getting long in the tooth, as well as new features packed in as standard in the ISR. VoIP processing, data encryption offloading, and other security features are now built into the ISR, which had required either external modules for older routers, or chewed up processor and memory resources on the platforms.
While Cisco is the dominant vendor in enterprise and small-and-midsize-business WAN routing with more than 70 percent market share, it has seen a ramp-up in competition lately from Juniper, with the release of its SSG, an integrated Juniper WAN router and Netscreen firewall. This is in addition to Nortel's acquisition of enterprise router maker Tasman Networks last year, and Alcatel's recent launch of its OmniAccess WAN router series also attempts to dig into Cisco's vast enterprise WAN installed base. (with Phil Hochmuth)