Cisco introduced the new Catalyst 8000 Edge platform last October, and in January 2021 it received another extension. Cisco intends to use the platform to go beyond the limitations of conventional routing approaches and offer a new platform designed with SD-WAN and security in mind. This is also why the Catalyst 8000 series from Cisco is not being marketed as a routing platform, but as an edge platform.

It replaces the Catalyst 8000 series routers from the ASR and ISR series. The various models continue to be separated into routers for branch offices and routers for aggregation and data centres. The portfolio has been extended by a virtual routing platform which replaces the old CSR100v virtual platform.

All models run on Cisco’s IOS XE operating system and offer comprehensive routing, SD-WAN and SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) functions. What’s more, all the devices in the Catalyst 8000 series can be incorporated into the Cisco DNA.

Here Cisco is reacting to the new demands placed upon routing solutions. Video calls, software-as-a-service, cloud storage – everyday applications which are not located on the local network, but in the cloud. Company networks must also keep up with this development. On one hand, the network must become more efficient in channelling the data to its destination, on the other, it is increasingly important for administrators to extend their network analyses beyond their own network, in order to continue to provide support. A completely new approach to security is also required, because new technologies also mean changing threat scenarios.

The new Cisco Catalyst 8000 series is able to meet these challenges. To ensure the security of company networks, Cisco uses the SASE architecture which also includes Cisco Umbrella. Cisco Cloud OnRamp allows the SD-WAN to be extended right into the cloud. AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are supported, among others. Additionally, the routers are sufficiently powerful for containerised applications – such as for network analysis – to run directly on the routers. This also offers wide-ranging options for network automation and for security solutions. These are just a few examples of the features Cisco is offering with the Catalyst 8000 series.

The 8000 series portfolio

The Catalyst 8000 series provides routers for diverse environments and, at least in name, does away with the separation between the ASR, ISR and CSR series. This demonstrates that, in future, Cisco will be focusing on the connection aspects of an all-round SD-WAN platform. This doesn’t mean that Cisco is working towards a uniform hardware solution for all applications. Quite the opposite: the routers in the Catalyst 8000 series are highly specialised, high-performance hardware which are considerably superior to their predecessors.

Branch office routers

The entry-level model is the Catalyst 8200. This was introduced at the start of the year to extend the branch office portfolio beyond the Catalyst 8300, which was already introduced in October. The 8200 replaces the ISR 4300 and, with 8 CPUs, up to 32 GB RAM and 1 Gigabit aggregated throughput, offers twice the performance of its predecessor.

The Catalyst 8200uCPE was developed with the virtualisation of branch offices in mind. The unit combines routing, switching and application hosting in a single device. As well as the four RJ45 ports it has two SFP slots, a Network Interface Module (NIM) for WAN and LAN modules, a Pluggable Interface Module (PIM) slot for wireless WAN with LTE Advanced /Advanced Pro and 5G connectivity.

The Catalyst 8300 was also designed for connecting branch offices. It replaces the ISR 4400 and offers a performance which is four times better than its predecessor. The 8300 also provides capability for integrating 5G PIM modules.

The Catalyst 8300 platform was developed to enable full SD-WAN implementation. This means the router can be extended with computing and switching functions. Application containers can use the x86 processors on the router directly.

Aggregation routers

An entry into WAN Edge aggregation is offered by the Catalyst 8500L, with 1G/10G ports and a height of just 1 RU. The router provides 12 x86 CPU cores and 64 GB RAM, to ensure connection of branch offices at a single central node.

The Catalyst 8500 is most suited to data centres and aggregation centres. It replaces the ASR 1001-HX/ASR 1002-HX. This router does not get its computing power from the x86 architecture, but instead uses the third generation of Cisco’s Quantum Flow architecture. The ASICs are specialised in high data throughput with combined safety functions and offers integrated 40 and 100 Gigabit ports.

Cellular gateways and virtual routing

To supplement a company’s connection beyond cables, the Catalyst Cellular Gateway is also part of the Catalyst 8000 series. It can be used as a backup and a primary WAN link. The advantage: as the gateways are independent units which can be incorporated into the network via Ethernet, the cellular gateways can also be situated outside network rooms and cabinets.

The virtual routing platform, Catalyst 8000V, can run on x86 platforms or on ENCS and CSP appliances, which provides a great deal of flexibility. Above all, the virtual router offers advantages for use in cloud environments.

With the Catalyst 8000 series, Cisco is offering strong routers for a future-proof network. We would be happy to advise you on whether the Catalyst 8000 series offers the right hardware for you too.