Cisco takes a first step in revamping IOS distribution

Future network gear will ship with all IOS feature code, with chunks activated by software keys

Cisco next week is expected to announce what it calls a simplified software distribution model for its routers and switches, and a new software tool to help users more easily manage large-scale networks.

The company plans to simplify how it delivers IOS software by shipping all of its gear with full-blown versions of IOS, in which users would activate feature packages via software licensing keys. Cisco's new software distribution model and licensing controls will let managers of large networks deploy router software and new features more easily, the company says. Administrators will also be able to get a better handle on what IOS versions are running across various devices, the company adds. New! Watch this Network World Webcast - Optimize your WAN, save cash, and simplify your life: Case studies from the real world

The change in Cisco's software distribution method is also the first step in a long-term transformation strategy on how its IOS software is sold and distributed, and how the code itself works.

Beginning sometime in the first quarter of 2007, all new Cisco routers and switches will ship with a kitchen-sink version of IOS - every feature set and release train. Users will activate the features they want in the IOS via software key codes.

"This is definitely a change in how we've done this in the past," says Marie Hattar, Cisco's senior director of routing and switching. "This makes customers' IOS image selection, and ongoing maintenance, much easier."

Cisco says that in the near future, users will be able to activate three feature-set levels: IP Base, which is currently the default IOS image; IP Services and Advanced IP Services. This method for adding features will be easier for network administrators, "instead of having to download the software, qualify it and load it into the network," Hattar says.

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