Cisco delivers service-stuffed routers
ISR line leverages hefty horsepower to deliver VoIP, firewall, VPN, and moreFollow @pvenezia
Phoning it in
The 2811 comes with the Web-based Cisco Unity Express manager, which gives users a graphical interface for managing and configuring their phone access. This model also comes with an optional, completely self-contained version of CME (CallManager Express), a subset of Cisco’s flagship CallManager VoIP platform.
I ran into a few problems with the CME management GUI. Unless you configure the CME with its Web application from the start, it’s unlikely to function correctly. Although the CLI-based configuration on the router might be perfectly functional, the CME Web interface wouldn’t load properly until I had reset the configuration to defaults and started fresh.
For my testing, I configured the 2811, along with a few Cisco IP phones, to support several VoIP extensions, incoming hunt groups, voice mail, and voice-assisted call routing. Armed with the right interfaces, this router can also act as a Wi-Fi AP, while handling up to 30 simultaneous digital calls, a maximum of 24 users, and 50 voice mail boxes. All in all, a pretty nice trick for a router.
In the real world
The upside to the ISR plan is that you get all these features at an attractive price. With fewer devices in your network closet, you have fewer management- and support-contract costs.
The downside is that a low-level device failure, such as a blown power supply, can render everything offline, from the phones to the network. Another concern is that inadequate security provisions on such an integral device can result in an attacker gaining complete control over the entire office infrastructure in one fell swoop. Furthermore, the Wi-Fi support in the 1811W may actually be viewed as a detriment as it’s impossible to physically disable this feature. The surreptitious enabling of Wi-Fi access could be a problem that goes undetected for quite a while.
These caveats aside, the ISR concept is well represented by the 1811W and the 2811 routers, and the trend is far from a fad; it’s the next step in network infrastructure evolution.