Introducing 4451-X Frickin Awesome 400Thinking about remote site networks in a totally new way.

This week Cisco announced a new member of the Integrated Services Router family.  The ISR 4451-X might not seem that unique at first glance.  Here’s Cisco releasing another new router that adds to their already extensive branch router portfolio – the ISR G2.  However, the newest ISR really is a #GameChanger when it comes to building a modern, future-proof network designed with business critical applications in mind.

That isn’t just marketing fluff in this case.  The ISR 4451-X was designed from the ground up with rich network services and application delivery in mind.  It really is the first platform conceived and built from the very beginning with a laser focus on application experience in a remote branch office.  Maybe we even need a new name because in some ways it really is changing what it means to be a “router.”

The Concept

When we started thinking about designing a new high-end branch router, several things were happening simultaneously with our large Enterprise customers.  First, the role of applications was changing in the network.  With modern business-critical applications being delivered across the wide-area network are now critical for keeping the front doors open, the network is now more critical than ever to businesses of all types.

By and large these applications are being delivered over the web which takes us to the next major trend that factors into every new product today: the cloud.  These business critical web applications are being delivered from a mixture of private, public and even hybrid clouds that make the role of the network much more important in creating an ideal application experience.

Finally, the more-important-than-ever IT organization was being tasked with doing more with less.  Under constant pressure to drive down capital and operating costs, IT groups needed to make every purchasing decision go further in both longevity in the network and ease of operation.  Pay-as-you-grow, simplicity and application awareness are all terms that describe expectations for the 21st century network.

The Execution

The ISR 4451-X is an attempt to create an entirely new concept in branch routing that ties together all of these trends into a platform that can seamlessly fit into branch environments at up to 2Gbps of throughput.  The same platform needed to scale with pay-as-you-grow performance licensing so you pay for the performance you need while supporting the huge range of features our customers expect in an ISR.  The design of the 4451-X spanned several years  involving a team of hundreds of engineers from around the globe.  It’s a little humbling when you see the amount of work and attention that goes into every aspect of designing something so revolutionary.  To put it into perspective, one of the more seasoned engineers on the project, Brian Embry, was a summer intern still in college when he first touched the project.  Today he’s one of the most experienced engineers working on the core functionality of the 4451-X.

Not every design is quite as ambitious.  ISR 4451-X actually started with the split data and control-plane architecture of the ASR1000.  We then added a new concept in the services-plane while making sure this new platform would fit into a wide range of branch environments.  That services plane is something that really sets the 4451-X apart from anything else in the industry.  For the first time we have dedicated hardware that can be used to run network applications lifted directly from their appliance siblings.  For example, the exact same WAN optimization software running on the WAAS appliances or virtual WAAS runs seamlessly inside the 4451-X services-plane.  No compromises in service delivery.  There are lots of other network services we’re working on that you’ll be seeing over the next few months.  Over time there will be options for lot of applications running in containers exactly like their appliance counterparts.

Of course, application experience is about more than just hosting services.  For the 4451-X we incorporated Application Visibility and Control (AVC) into the core data-plane hardware.  Previously routers always made forwarding decisions at layer 3 of the OSI model.  Really smart routers might peek up into layer 4 but never any further than that.  With the Application Experience (AX) concepts built into the ISR family we’re now making forwarding decisions all the way up to layer 7.  This new platform is also part of the AX portfolio as the 4451-AX.

Deciding where to run those business critical applications is always a difficult prospect for an IT organization.  For some of the most important applications, it often makes sense to run them directly in the branch itself avoiding network latency, security concerns and any risk of network or cloud outages.  That’s where the UCS E-Series server blades come to bear.  The same general-purpose server modules work across the ISR family including the 4451-X.

The Result

So here we are 5 years and many gray hairs later.  We have a platform we’re all extremely proud of.  The ISR 4451-X augments the ISR portfolio with a device that hits a variety of cost and performance requirements.  With performance licensing, the 4451-X can boost performance without touching hardware.  Network services and general branch applications deployed remotely through a combination of Service Containers running internally and applications running on a UCS E-Series server module.  Application awareness is front-and-center throughout the 4451-X.  This really is a platform designed for the way branch networks are being built today.



Matt Bolick


SRTG Marketing - US