Two IT hosting trends, the central data center and the cloud, are changing Internet infrastructure requirements. Organizations are seeking to lower cost and complexity while better serving internal and external customers in diverse locations. As IT centralizes application hosting, Cisco has responded with the introduction of the Integrated Services Router with Application Experience or ISR-AX. ISR-AX combines a branch router, application optimization, and security and performance features in one box.

A True Integrated Router Appliance

ISR-AX is a cost-effective and comprehensive appliance solution to the growing need to support a mobile and distributed workforce. In addition to layers 2 and 3, ISR-AX addresses layers 4 through 7 to improve application delivery. The appliance adds application optimization to Cisco’s ISR G2 1900, 2900 and 3900 router models. These product lines already offer comprehensive network management and automation capability to extend the Internet edge to the branch office. AX adds Cisco’s Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) license for application acceleration and its Application Visibility and Control (AVC) license for granular application management. AVC gives IT staff visibility into application performance that lets them determine whether any delivery issues are at the branch level. They can also prioritize applications and optimize deployment.

ISR-AX incorporates comprehensive security features with the cloud in mind. In addition to a firewall, it includes SSL-based VPN and intruder detection. The security bundle eliminates the need for standalone products and simplifies IT security management, optimizing the branch’s direct cloud interface and safe use of mobile devices.

An Affordable Business Solution

Until now, Cisco’s market strategy has been to sell the ISR-AX’s functions separately in a modular approach. While in theory the customer can build a tailored solution, the reality is often quite expensive. Further, adding or upgrading is not always seamless when the infrastructure must accommodate a distributed and mobile workforce while staying within budget.

ISR-AX solves the issue by integrating support for layers 2 through 7 in one appliance and offering it at over 30 percent less than its own separate solutions. For example, the ISR-AX 2951 lists for $12,900 while its ISR router competitor retails for $17,695. Using one router box, branch offices can have secure and high-performance access to corporate resources. IT can free up the central data center from its inefficient servicing of satellite locations.

ISR-AX Moves Branches Toward the Cloud

Branch offices are becoming more essential to business operations and also must support more diverse work roles. Application performance is critical if branch users are to enjoy the same experience as centralized workers. Further, IT staff must have network visibility to safely configure branches to access cloud solutions. As companies move to the cloud, satellite sites often remain served by the centralized data center. The ISR-AX changes the game with application optimization that lets IT manage the quality of service to the end user. The branch can connect directly to the Internet without relying on central resources for delivery and security.

BYOD policies also benefit from ISR-AX implementation. BYOD or Bring Your Own Device is the employee practice of using personal mobile devices for work. As more and more people bring their own tablets and smartphones to the office, IT must manage the resulting provisioning and security issues. This complexity makes it difficult to adopt a standard policy that reflects both the IT issues and the reality of the mobile workforce. ISR-AX simplifies the process by bundling routing, security, and application management in a single appliance at the worker sites. BYOD cloud traffic no longer has to take up network resources outside of the branch infrastructure, and IT can manage mobile security at the branch level. This allows an organization to roll out a standard BOYD policy across sites and realize the cost savings that BOYD often provides.

An Application Experience Work in Progress

Companies looking for a complete application router solution may have to wait a bit longer. AX is not yet available for the 800 ISR, ASR1000 and CSR1000V series although Cisco plans on including them. The 800 ISR series supports the small business and teleworker markets, so organizations too small for enterprise solutions cannot yet take advantage of WAAS software and AVC functionality. Larger businesses must also make do with their current edge and cloud services routers until future AX releases support them.

Meanwhile, companies can leverage the ISR-AX in satellite locations to provide a first-rate application experience to the end user and simplified management for IT. The appliance’s security and monitoring features make cloud connectivity and BYOD cost-effective alternatives for branches. Cisco has created the router solution to beat, and upcoming releases should continue to bring it within reach of most everyone.

Cisco Systems is a company that is most well known for it’s extenisve product base in routers and other networking devices. They are also the authoritative body for many networking certifications, such as the Certified Cisco Network Associate credential, which will ensure employers that candidates are well versed in routing and switching.

We are a provider of online CCNA training as well as many other information technology and cyber security certifications.

Ryan is the former VP of Marketing and Sales for TrainACE. He left the company in 2015, but is still a friend and contributor to TrainACE’s blog.

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