Cisco Systems has announced that it is doubling the speed of its Aggregation Services Router (ASR) 1000 Series routers to 20Gbits/sec, only eight months after introducing the product line.

The improvement is made possible with a new embedded services processor that can be installed in the ASR 1000 Series router, said Tere' Bracco, senior manager for network systems at Cisco, in an interview. Each processor, now available, costs $50,000 (approx £31,000).

The added speed in the router device will improve performance and security options, Bracco said. The ASR 1000, for aggregating data at the edge of the private network where it joins the Internet in a WAN, was sold to 250 customers globally in only eight months, she said. It was introduced in March. About 2,000 devices have been sold, according to Cisco documents.

Data centre consolidation projects, added security tools and new data-rich collaboration applications all increase the need for a new WAN infrastructure that benefits from fast aggregation, Bracco added.

For security, the new processor also provides 8Gbits/sec. IPsec encryption and VPN tunnel services, Bracco added. In addition, Cisco today announced WAN optimisation enhancements for the ASR series, as well as integrated threat control and simplified management for Cisco Security Manager software.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Research in Boston, said the new speed will matter, especially at aggregation points for processing security packets and data-rich applications. The security improvements also make it possible to replace a WAN edge security firewall, he added.

Kerravala said he knew of no other vendor offering such speed in a similar router.

NHS Lothian, the second largest health care provider in Scotland, recently installed eight ASR 1000 routers with 10Gbits/sec. speed in four sites on its WAN, which serves 68 sites and about 22,000 users in all, said Iain Robertson, head of IT operations and infrastructure at NHS Lothian.

Having higher speeds at 20Gbits/sec. is "very much of interest," Robertson said in an email, since the health care provider plans to install new devices in the spring that produce digital images of up to 6GB in size.

The existing routers have been used to support a new patient management system, as well as a new digital X-ray system, which has eliminated the need to produce and process film for X-rays with chemicals, Robertson said. With the patient management system, NHS Lothian also uses encryption over the WAN to protect patient records, which include treatments, diagnoses and digital x-rays.

In all, NHS Lothian spent about $280,000 on the eight ASRs, Robertson said. He said it's too early to tell if the ASRs are cost-effective but added, "I believe they will be, as we have a platform which is scalable and able to support some of the huge bandwidth requirements that are being thrown at us in the health sector." IT technicians at the health centre have seen an added benefit with easy setup and configuration of the ASRs, he added.