Cisco routers extend IoT networks to edge

  • June 16, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

Cisco has announced a portfolio of Catalyst industrial routers to extend the power of enterprise networks to the edge with the flexibility, security and scalability needed for IoT.

Featuring 5G capabilities, the portfolio lets organisations run connected operations at scale with choice of management tools suitable for both IT and operations. The unified architecture simplifies collaboration between IT and operations and streamlines their deployments from the enterprise to the edge.

For most of Cisco’s customers, the opportunity to improve efficiencies, experience and business results is achieved with data generated at the edge, because the edge is all the places where organisations serve their customers and create revenue. The edge is diverse and is located anywhere and everywhere, from utility substations and pipelines to roadways and the police cars and buses that run on them.

According to Gartner, 75% of data will be generated outside of the data centre in these edge environments.

Whether it’s connecting point-of-sale kiosks or a remote piece of equipment, edge use cases have different technology needs. Typically, organisations connect these environments in isolation, resulting in a fragmented network architecture, increased security vulnerabilities and isolated data. As organisations accelerate digitisation, they need a way to simplify management and security across the network and edge devices.

“Only Cisco offers a network from the enterprise to the industrial edge, with an architecture that provides visibility, automation and security from campuses and branch offices to substations, remote operating locations, fleets, on-the-go connected assets and beyond,” said Vikas Butaney, vice president at Cisco.

Three Catalyst 5G industrial routers have been added to connect securely mobile and fixed assets. These routers are based on Cisco IOS XE to extend the enterprise network and SD-WAN to the edge. This unified architecture provides IT and operational teams with consistent tools, eliminates training on new devices and technologies, and improves security. The Catalyst routers are modular and offer built-in edge compute to develop business apps and drive decisions at the edge.

The Cisco IoT Gateway series is for essential indoor or outdoor connectivity at mass scale. Packaged with Cisco’s cloud-based IoT Operations Dashboard, these cloud-simple gateways are cost-effective and offer fast and simple set up; simply plug it in and power it on to connect previously unconnected assets.

The need for data means organisations will increase the number of devices connected and the applications supported. As 5G, Wifi 6 and new technologies proliferate, the edge must be able to adapt quickly.

The Catalyst routing portfolio is said to deliver the scale, flexibility and security to adapt as use cases evolve and new applications are needed. It offers a choice of modules – including 5G and LTE for public or private cellular networks, for public safety applications such as FirstNet, DSL, Wi-Sun – and upgradeable storage. Plus, the portfolio enables updating the CPU and battery in the field.

“Our customers need our hardware to be in play for seven to ten years in their operational environments,” said Butaney. “This modularity eliminates a rip and replace cycle to take advantage of 5G and whatever comes next. Now they can easily take advantage of new technologies and future-proof their networking investments.”

As industrial and enterprise networks converge with more assets connected, the threat of exposure at the edge increases. This ever-expanding attack surface presents complex cyber security challenges.

The Catalyst industrial router portfolio, based on Cisco’s cyber-security architecture, delivers a holistic strategy to manage security across siloed IT and OT environments. The portfolio integrates Cisco Cyber Vision to provide full visibility from enterprise to the edge.

Cyber Vision embeds a sensor within the industrial network so security teams can detect threats to their industrial environments with operational context, enabling organisations to build a converged IT and operations threat management strategy without the need for extra boxes and vendors. Plus, the portfolio supports secure remote access for operations and equipment monitoring and servicing.

The Catalyst industrial routers are available from this month.

“Managing the complexity of the industrial edge is challenging beyond multiple use cases, each of which has different protocols, connectivity requirements, form factors and security,” said Kevin Prouty, group vice president at IDC. “As a result, there are often multiple vendors involved, creating siloed networks, increased maintenance time and cyber-security risks. Uniting this unruly edge can be the gateway to real transformation. Approaches like Cisco’s new industrial routing portfolio potentially simplifies the management of this complexity, securely and at scale.”