Coming soon: Wireless Cisco multi-function router

VANCOUVER — Cisco Systems Inc. plans to add wireless capabilities to its Integrated Services Router (ISR) line of networking products, the company’s chief technology officer told partners this week.

During a presentation to about

2,000 participants of its partner conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre, Charlie Giancarlo described the ISR series as an example of a Cisco product line that combines security, voice and caching functions into one router.

“Coming soon, we’re going to be embedding wireless technology in here as well,” he said.

Adding wireless capabilities to the ISR series will be a “slam dunk” for the San Jose, Calif.-based network equipment manufacturer, said Zeus Kerravala, vice-president for enterprise infrastructure with The Yankee Group, a Boston-based market research firm.

“There’s no reason to not do it,” Kerravala said during an interview, adding he predicts Cisco may also add Wide Area File Services (WAFS) technology – which is designed to reduce the amount of time it takes to access and save files over wide-area networks –  to the ISR routers.

The ISR series is aimed at small to mid-sized firms, and at large enterprises operating branch offices. Cisco officials would not say when the company plans to launch a wireless version of ISR or what the product will be named, nor would they release other details.

The ISR family includes: the 1841 Router, aimed at small to mid-sized organizations, which has intrusion prevention, firewall and virtual private networking capability; the 2800 series, which supports both security functions and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and targets mid-sized businesses and large organizations operating branch offices; and the 3800 series, which supports security, VoIP and power over Ethernet.

Since it was launched last fall, the ISR series has accounted for about 60 per cent of Cisco’s edge router sales, Cisco Canada’s vice-president for channel operations, Steve Simmons, said during a media briefing Monday.

“With ISR, it’s the fastest ramp-up of any product we’ve ever had,” said John Chambers, Cisco’s president and chief executive officer, who made his remarks during Tuesday’s general session.

Chambers said a big question for Cisco and its partners is how to design voice, video and data networking products tailored to the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market, which for Cisco is growing more quickly than the enterprise and service provider markets.

He added vendors need to sell products designed to solve business problems for specific industries – such as retail and health care – rather than products designed only with a function in mind, such as storage, security or wireless.

One example in the medical field would be any application designed for a single electronic patient record, which Chambers said would help cut health-care costs and reduce the risk of a patient having a bad reaction to a prescribed drug.

One health-care application designed for IP telephony is PharmacyLine, which was on display at the partner summit by its developer, Raleigh, N.C.-based Ateb Inc. PharmacyLine, an interactive voice response (IVR) application designed to let drug stores automatically receive prescription orders over the phone, works on both legacy time-division multiplexing (TDM) equipment and on Internet Protocol (IP) phones. The IP version lets pharmacies include more text information on the handsets than would be available with the TDM version, said Brian Northcutt, an Ateb sales rep who attended the partner summit.

Ateb’s president, Frank Sheppard, said he was happy Cisco is “taking more of a solutions approach” to its networking products.

The focus on solutions makes sense, because “the technology doesn’t sell itself anymore,” said Marc Thomas, president of Miami-based VoiceRite Inc., which was exhibiting its Extensible Markup Language (XML) software for IP telephony.

Thomas said VoiceRite’s PhoneXML lets companies enter voice commands into phones. One large company uses VoiceRite’s software to let users reset their passwords automatically when they forget them.

The customer, which Thomas said he is not allowed to name, was spending $4 million per year on labour costs associated with resetting passwords manually.

The Cisco Partner Summit wraps up Thursday.

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