Cisco Systems has a large portfolio of products, but until now, it didn't have routers and switches specifically made for next-generation electrical utility deployments, known as the smart grid.
This week, Cisco is announcing its first purpose-built routers and switches for the smart grid, with the Connected Grid Router (CGR) and Connected Grid Switch (CGS) platforms. The new network hardware is part of Cisco's overall push into the smart grid space, in which Cisco sees billions of dollars worth of market opportunities for growth.
"We're looking at specific products for the smart grid, and that's not our typical mode of operation," Inbar Lasser-Raab, senior director of network systems at Cisco, told InternetNews.com. "We do have communication infrastructure solutions and they serve many industries -- this is, however, a very unique offering."
The new products for the smart grid from Cisco are the CGR 2010 Connected Grid Router and the CGS 2050 Connected Grid Switch. While the two products are new, they are derived from existing Cisco technologies. The CGR is based on an ISR G2 router. Cisco first announced the ISR G2 series in October 2009 and updated the platform in March of this year with additional security capabilities and chassis options.
The CGS switches, meanwhile, stem from the Cisco Catalyst switching platform. While the CGR and CGS are based on existing Cisco hardware, Lasser-Raab stressed that they're not simply rebranded products.
"They have the same software capabilities and are based on Cisco IOS, which brings a lot of good heritage to the smart grid space," Lasser-Raab said. "But they are purpose-built for the smart grid, with new form factors [and] packaging and they are specifically designed with utilities in mind."
Lasser-Raab explained that the CGS and CGR are ruggedized platforms able to handle high temperature ranges and electromagnetic interference. She added that the new platforms are using industrial-grade components. The devices also support redundant power supplies and have no moving parts.
"So they are cousins of the existing product lines, but they are purpose-built for tough environments," Lasser-Raab said.
Integration with existing communications infrastructure at electrical utilities is another key capability that Cisco has baked into its new networking gear.
"We have created serial lines on the CGR router, which we don't have on the original ISR, in order to enable utilities to connect their older systems onto the network today," Lasser-Raab said. "We don't expect them to throw out their older systems and start from scratch with an IP base."
She added that Cisco expects that utilities will converge their systems onto IP eventually, noting that utilities today are already using IP in some portions of their networks, but that there are also a lot of areas with legacy systems and serial connections.
"So it's really about taking all those different elements and converging them over a single infrastructure," Lasser-Raab said.