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Cisco Rolls Out Rugged Embeded Services Router

Cisco is rolling out a new family of routers that will eventually replace its 3200 series of rugged Integrated Services Routers (ISRs). The networking giant says it has done well with the 3270 router, which will be retired December 2011, but the biggest customer complaints were that Cisco got the size, weight and power wrong. It's replacement is already being called a "game-changer".

Targeted at public safety, transportation, construction, mining and defense markets that require secure IP routing and services in rugged terrain, the 5940 Embedded Services Router (ESR) is a 3U (100 x 160 millimeters) CompactPCI router card that is available in both air- and conduction-cooled models and features four Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, and the  IOS router software. One of the important new features is Radio-Aware Routing, which enables the radio to pass link-quality metrics to the router. Cisco says you don't lose calls and the network remains intact, which is a significant step forward. It will begin shipping in volume next month, but the company says there will be a spectrum of form factors, capabilities and price points.

Defense and first-responder users have been demanding enterprise capabilities in the field for many years, says Greg Giaquinto, senior aerospace/defense analyst, Forecast International. "One of the greatest impediments to conducting military operations in an environment like the mountains of Afghanistan is the lack of an established, fixed communications infrastructure (the same can be said of conducting civilian rescue operations for natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the earthquake in Haiti)."

The new router is a solution for enabling communications to take place in environments where no communications infrastructure exists. "The method of communications is simple. A Cisco 5940 Embedded Services Router is inserted into a radio. The Cisco 5940 ESR then "searches" for another radio containing a Cisco 5940 Embedded Services Router and communicates with that router via wireless technology.

If 15 soldiers are carrying radios containing the Cisco 5940 ESR, the Cisco routers will use radio feedback to monitor the status of the communications quality and find the best communications path among these 15 radios. As I said, this method of communications is simple. That said, the technology required to permit such communications is not so simple."

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