ROUTERS: Five 9 Is Cool Today

Indian enterprises are fast discovering a new business edge in networking. An
ever-increasing number of large enterprises and competitive small- and
medium-sized companies are achieving new levels of productivity by networking
their business-critical systems across both intracity and intercity offices and
set-ups. Not only have they found it beneficial to conduct many internal
corporate functions through the network in an intensely competitive world, they
find it hard not to stay connected with business partners and key customers.
Service provider networks, especially those of Internet service providers (ISPs)
and carriers providing interoffice connectivity for enterprises, have also grown
to meet the networking demands of such customers.

In such a scenario, the business itself gets dependent on the network
infrastructure of maintaining its vital processes to the extent that network
downtime can lead to lost efficiencies and dwindled profits. The service
provider too pays a steep penalty when his network is unavailable. In a
developing country like

India, where the bandwidth available is often paltry, the challenge is even
greater. Costs due to downtime in a network include staff overtime, engaging
consultants, and SLA penalties incurred because of an outage. In addition, a
number of soft costs are related to network downtime. Business stability and
predictability are the key concerns when the service provider signs SLAs with
the customer. Like the telephone network today, the IP network (Internet) should
also be trustworthy and predictable.

Therefore, while choosing a router–the most important networking devices in
a wide area network–a 99.999 availability is not asking for much.

Buying Tips

n Processor
The router must have a redundant CPU with hit-less failover.
Does the router have a standby route processor that can automatically take over
in the case of the original processor failing? Providing an active switchover,
not requiring lengthy reboots, can help the router achieve the 99.999 uptime
that is expected of it. Also, see that the router has an NEBS-complaint chassis
and adequate redundant power backups.

Since router are expected to be up on a 24×7 basis, they must have hot
swappable interface cards, so that operations are not affected by downtimes or
decreased performance of the network.

n Stable
Operating System:
Operating system stability is expected in a router. As the
number of routes maintained increases, more strain is put on the processor. A
stable operating system must be in place to process the routes and manage
connectivity, without including delay time to the router.

n Software
Components Are Independent:
A distributed software architecture allows all software functions within the
router to work independently. In case there is a problem with one of the
components, rest of the services will run without any downtime. This is highly
important in a service
provider network.

n Interoperability:
Interoperability across multiple products is achievable by using
standards-based products. Non-interoperability or problem in internetworking
could result in unexpected time delays and even network outages.

n Multiple
Protocols Support:
High-level protocol support is needed to fully scale up
to the variety of services that are being demanded of a router. Some crucial
protocols that routers are expected to support are full BGP peering, OSPF, RIP
and static routers, scalable traffic filtering, multicast migration features,
policy-based routing, granular QoS, etc.

n Location of
Products support and service availability, with measurable service
levels from original product manufacturers, are important if one is expecting a
highly available network. Find out if the vendor has a local depot that stocks
parts so that a speedy replacement of failed products can be assured. Also, a
24×7 service availability for support and technical assistance should be in

n Minimum
A product is only as good and stable as the people who man it.
Thus, skills for maintenance and operations become very important. Go for
products and use a single set of resources with minimal investments in training,
and see that various products deployed across the network have a uniform look
and feel.

Market Information

Routers are the engines of the Internet. Ever since the advent of that
magical mother of networks, routers have helped companies access a growing
library of information and add their own information to it through hosting. The
phenomenon, a global one, has been applicable to India as well. Although local
hosting has not yet picked up on a large scale, benefits of the Internet are
being accrued by both large enterprises as well as SMEs. Contrary to the
scenario five years ago, when only top executives of companies had access to the
Net, many companies today provide Net access to all their employees. That being
so, the growth of the router market has been tremendous in India.

Routers have been penetrating the Indian market consistently and rapidly.
First came the initial rush to connect branches by the multinationals and
leading companies of India–routers being used to control the WANs. Then came
the Internet explosion in 1998—99. Hundreds of companies signed up to provide
Internet services. Out of them, a hundred or so managed to put up a network. It
was a windfall for router companies, especially for the router king Cisco, which
soon emerged as the largest networking vendor of India, courtesy its router
performance. Even though there has been a slowdown in the ISP market, the router
growth is expected to be quite good in the current fiscal as well. For the last
two years, it is the financial sector that has been generating much of the
demand. In particular, Indian banks have discovered the value of connectivity,
and are aggressively connecting their branches by satellite or leased lines.

Cisco is the market leader as far as routers are concerned. It leads the
market by a huge margin, controlling about 80 percent of the Indian market.
Other notable players, who are trying to eat into Cisco’s share, include
Nortel, Zyxel, and Eicon.

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