Cisco’s ASR 5500 May Affect Your Smartphone User Experience

by Jenn Cano on June 6, 2012

Thanks to Cisco, you may now be able to watch your favorite YouTube or Netflix movie without the annoying “buffering” delays.  On Tuesday, June 5th, Cisco announced a new tool, the ASR 5500, which will let carriers sift through and prioritize the traffic flooding their networks.

With more and more people accessing the Internet from mobile devices wireless carriers are struggling to keep up with the data demands.  In fact, by 2016, Cisco forecasts that 61% of all global Internet traffic will be mobile. 

Cisco’s ASR 5500 is a key piece in the puzzle that will have some significant implications for everyday mobile users. 

Have you ever been in a hurry to get somewhere on time and you’re trying to load Google Maps and it freezes!  In a panic you try to shrink the map to see if it will load faster if it’s zoomed out, and that’s not working so you try to zoom back in and nothing!  Now you’re left to your directional 6th sense, and if yours is anything like mine, you end up driving in circles trying to find a spot that will connect you to the network and load your map!

The cause behind the problem is most networks today give more or less the same priority to all kinds of traffic.  So while you’re desperately driving in circles trying to get Google Maps to load someone else is jamming up the network watching ads on Pandora, Angry Birds, or some other game and you’re late to your meeting.  Obviously not the ideal situation!

Cisco’s ASR 5500 seems to be the fix.  It's a kind of gateway between the mobile network and the larger Internet that gives networks the intelligence to handle different traffic differently.  It’s kind of like a FedEx hub where all the packages come in and are then prioritized and sent back out to their correct destinations.

The ASR 5500 is based on technology that Cisco got with its acquisition of Starent back in 2009 for $2.9 billion.  After the acquisition Cisco rebranded Starent’s mobile gateway and came out with the ASR 5000 in 2010.  The new 5500 is providing a 10x improvement in performance and is specifically targeting service providers’ wireless traffic problems. 

Kelly Ahuja, senior vice president and general manager in the Mobility Internet Technology Group at Cisco said, “So what we've done is build both the hardware and software infrastructure to scale.  What that means is we can take a combination of silicon and memory and blend it together in a combination that is optimized to meet the needs of today and the future."

In technical terms, the 5500 has a bigger NPU (network processing unit) and a bigger CPU (central processing unit) that Cisco has put into a modular system that enables customers to scale the chassis and then virtualize their services.

Ahuja went on to explain that “You can take two ASR 5500s and you can have millions of sessions running on them in a particular location running over 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi.  If something goes wrong, we will switch those sessions all across to the other system that could be in a different location and the state will be maintained.

In practical terms, what the 5500 means for the users is their wireless network provider could set different priorities for video, phone calls and apps to ensure that all services are running smoothly.  Which would mean a significant reduction in buffering while you’re watching your favorite YouTube video.

Juniper, Ericsson, and several other smaller networking hardware companies have released similar products, but Cisco seems to be getting more service provider attention.  No matter who brought it to market firsts, intelligent networks are clearly the wave of the future.

You can find out more about Cisco, Juniper, and other networking hardware that may fit your networking needs.  XSi is a provider of networking hardware, software, and IT network maintenance.   

Topics: Cisco Maintenance, Cisco, Juniper, Juniper Network, Juniper Networking, IT Networking, Cisco router

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