The new 3945e router from Cisco Systems is one of four new Integrated Services Routers Generation 2 (ISR G2) platforms developed by Cisco to deliver high performance, secure data delivery and unified communications services to branch offices. The new router series supports a host of next-generation technologies, including high-capacity digital signal processors (DSPs) for enhanced video capabilities; multiple service modules with improved availability and increased power efficiency; and multicore CPUs. All of these features are required for a modern network to scale and deliver high-quality unified communications. The 3945e router I tested uses 3U in the server rack, and had both the EtherSwitch Service Module and one Services-Ready Engine (SRE) module installed.
Branch-office end users in a distributed organization will benefit from the increased performance of their unified communications applications and the added flexibility that the 3945e offers. Because the 3945e’s SRE module technology allows for the independent operation of each SRE, the performance of collaborative applications such as video conferencing, file-sharing and e-mail will not be compromised by other locations.
The new router also supports the increased use of mobile devices. Embedded hardware-accelerated VPN encryption delivers secure connectivity and integrated threat control using the Cisco Internetwork Operating System (Cisco IOS) Firewall, zone-based firewall, an intrusion prevention system and content filtering. Along with identity management that uses authentication, authorization and accounting, as well as a public key infrastructure, these capabilities lock down the network.
Benefits for the IT department include traditional Cisco features, as well as new technologies and capabilities. The 3945e comes with four SRE slots, four integrated 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports, two small form-factor pluggable (SFP) ports, three high-speed WAN interface card slots and three onboard DSP slots. SREs are router blades for the new ISR G2 router family that host Cisco, third-party and custom applications.
Cisco also provides plans called Cisco Validated Designs (CVDs) for branch offices that show typical router topologies into the branch network. Choosing the right modules begins with knowing what type of primary and secondary access the office uses. There are modules and interfaces for most combinations. A service-ready deployment model lets administrators provision branch-office applications remotely on the modules. Another important benefit is that the SRE modules have their own processors, storage, network interfaces and memory, which operate independently of the host router and help ensure maximum routing and application performance.
The Gigabit Ethernet switching service module gives the router the same integrated Layer 2/Layer 3 switching capabilities found in the Cisco Catalyst 3560-E and Catalyst 2960 Series switches. This service module also delivers cost-cutting, energy-efficient technology such as Cisco EnergyWise, enhanced Power over Ethernet (ePoE) and per-port PoE power monitoring. The IT staff will appreciate that the EtherSwitch Service Module also supports direct communication between SREs, which separates LAN traffic from WAN resources.
Cisco offers plenty of information about its features and benefits, which is very helpful when making purchasing decisions. However, we were unable to find much guidance on installation or router configuration. Cisco assumes familiarity with its IOS infrastructure software configuration; documentation is mostly focused on the device’s physical installation into different rack-mount situations. However, if IT personnel are unfamiliar with IOS, there is sufficient information on the Cisco website to learn from fairly quickly.
Alyson Behr has more than 15 years of experience writing about technology and has been a contributing editor for leading product-testing labs.