Cisco Boosts IOS XR Software Solutions…for ‘Cloud-Scale’ Networking

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“Lower cost, higher performance”, customers hope so. For the networking giant-Cisco, to enhance support for its users is a very important mission.

Last week Cisco enhanced its network operating system software to boost the performance of cloud applications and reduce operational costs.

Cisco unveiled an upgrade to its IOS XR software that features improved programmability and tighter integration with popular IT configuration and management tools. The software was developed with some leading web companies, based on their operational best practices, but Cisco did not identify which ones.

Cisco Boosts IOS XR Software Solutions…for 'Cloud-Scale' Networking-01

Yes, Cisco has added support for open source tools Chef and Puppet in the IOS XR operating system for its NCS programmable routers.

Cisco has added a software development kit (SDK), and open source management and automation tools to the routers service providers use to power customers’ WANs.

The latest tools are included in an upgrade of Cisco’s IOS-XR network operating system, which runs the company’s highly programmable routers, the Network Convergence Systems (NCS) Series. As part of this week’s announcement, Cisco also added hardware to the NCS portfolio.

The improvements in router programmability include tighter integration with open source DevOps tools Chef and Puppet. Chef provides a framework for system management and cloud infrastructure automation, while Puppet is for centralizing and automating configuration management.

“By supporting Chef and Puppet, they are making some moves to become more open,” said John Fruehe, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, based in Austin, Texas. “This is part of a more focused Cisco strategy — an acknowledgement that if they aren’t engaged with the tools that service providers are using, then the reasons to select Cisco start to drop.”

The latest version of IOS XR includes an SDK for building third-party applications that run on top of the operating system. The SDK is in line with Cisco’s effort, called DevNet, to get network engineers and developers to build software together.

“The SDK is also an important piece, as it opens up the ecosystem a bit for people to develop applications,” Fruehe said.



The IOS XR upgrade also contains APIs that support YANG, a data modeling language for the NETCONF configuration management protocol. Network administrators use YANG and NETCONF tools to automate configuration tasks across a variety of devices.

For real-time WAN programming, Cisco has added to the WAN Automation Engine (WAE) in IOS XR support for segment routing, which enables fast retransmit and recovery protection for IP and MPLS networks. In general, WAE lets service providers configure and manage customer networks through features that include global load balancing, bandwidth-on-demand and premium services.

WAE is part of IOS XR’s Cisco Application Engineered Routing technology, which provides full control over how network infrastructure supports applications. The software for Cisco’s programmable routers also helps service providers reduce operations through better control over latency, bandwidth and availability.

  • All of the above technology sits on top of the NCS routers. The latest additions to the portfolio include the 5000, 5500 and 1000 series.
  • The 5000 series provides up to four routed 100 GbE ports for MPLS routing in aggregated metropolitan area networks.
  • The 5500 series provides up to 288 routed 100 GbE ports for WAN aggregation, and the 1000 model supports 100/200/250 Gb wavelengths for existing fiber with distances that exceed 3,000 kilometers.


More Notes: What’s the Metropolitan Area Network?

A metropolitan area network (MAN) is a network that interconnects users with computer resources in a geographic area or region larger than that covered by even a large local area network (LAN) but smaller than the area covered by a wide area network (WAN). The term is applied to the interconnection of networks in a city into a single larger network (which may then also offer efficient connection to a wide area network). It is also used to mean the interconnection of several local area networks by bridging them with backbone lines. The latter usage is also sometimes referred to as a campus network.

Examples of metropolitan area networks of various sizes can be found in the metropolitan areas of London, England; Lodz, Poland; and Geneva, Switzerland. Large universities also sometimes use the term to describe their networks. A recent trend is the installation of wireless MANs.

The router’s 100 GbE interfaces are what service providers need for a data center interconnect, said Nav Chander, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass. “These solutions combine routing, optical switching and a lot of WAN automation software.”

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