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Cisco virtual router targets the cloud

Joel Snyder | Feb. 26, 2013
CSR 1000V works flawlessly, but beware of hardware requirements, licensing issues

The Cisco CSR 1000V router is designed for enterprise network managers who want to have a little piece of their Cisco infrastructure in the cloud.

Whether that's for firewalling, VPN or dynamic routing the CSR 1000V supports all major technologies in IOS -- the idea is that a virtual router gives the network manager the flexibility to enforce policy, connect or provide high availability using familiar Cisco tools and technologies.

We tested the CSR 1000V, a full-featured IOS XE router running v3.8S of XE in a VMware-compatible virtual machine. Does it work? Yes, in fact, it works just fine. It works great, actually.

In our functional testing, the CSR 1000V met all the requirements we'd expect for this type of environment. We tried bringing up VPN connections, defining firewall and NAT rules, and running both OSPF and BGP routing protocols. We set up two CSR 1000V virtual machines on two different hosts, and used HSRP to failover between them. We exercised both IPv4 and IPv6, and we tested management with Cisco's ever-popular command line, as well as SNMP monitoring and remote SYSLOG logging.

With thousands of pages of IOS documentation, we may not have scratched the surface of full functional testing, but certainly the key features that we think most enterprise network managers will want are all in place and working just fine.

Virtualization alphabet soup

The version of the CSR 1000V we tested is only supported on VMware's ESXi 5 infrastructure. We looked at an early release version; Cisco told us that the virtual appliance should be available to all customers around March. At that time, IOS XE will be upgraded to v3.9. Cisco is also predicting that it will support Amazon Web Services (based on Citrix's XenServer hypervisor technology) and Red Hat KVM with the v3.10 release of the CSR 1000V in July. Microsoft's Hyper-V isn't on Cisco's public road map, at least not yet.

Running the CSR 1000V is not for the faint of heart. We started out with the idea that we'd put it on our test VMware farm, which was running older servers with vSphere v4. In years of testing, that's never given anyone a problem until Cisco came along.

The CSR 1000V not only requires vSphere v5, but also has very strict hardware requirements, including a minimum of four physical (not virtual, but physical) cores, all in the same socket, dedicated to the CSR 1000V without any sharing, 4GB of memory, and Intel Nehalem or newer CPUs. Don't follow the specifications, and you've got a crashing CSR 1000V, which isn't much fun.

Cisco routers

Cisco told us that it is considering allowing future versions of the CSR 1000V to share CPUs with other virtual machines, but the version we tested doesn't have that option: Four CPU cores had to be exclusively dedicated to the CSR 1000V.


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