It looks like Cisco is finally starting to push their new, modular IOS code down from their uber-expensive CRS-1 router into their merely amazingly expensive routers. Network World is reporting that they’re almost ready to release a version of IOS XR for Cisco 12000-series routers. So now you’ll be able to run a semi-modern operating system that implements things like memory protection between processes on routers that cost under $500k. When they get under $100k, this might start to be interesting.

Cisco’s also going to release a line of “shared port adapters” that can be used in routers from the 7300, 7600, 12000, and CRS-1 product families. You need a SPA Interface Processor card for your router type, and then you plus SPAs into the SIP card. According to their picture, the SIP for the 7600 family can hold 4 SPAs, which means that the SPAs themselves must be fairly small–almost certainly smaller then the PAs that 7200/7400/7500 routers use. There are a pile of different SPAs on their list, from 8x cT1 to 10x GigE to 1x 10GigE, to OC 192.

Of course, in typical Cisco fashion, the “shared port adapters” aren’t really all that shared. There are 3 different SPA carrier cards for the 7600 series; one model is only good with the VPN SPA, and the other two overlap a bit–both are good with 2x or 4x OC-3 SPAs, but one supports 1x OC-12 while the other supports T1 and T3 SPAs. None of the three models support the GigE SPAs. Ther 12000-series has 2 different SIP models; one is good for T1/T3 use, while the other one is good for GigE and OC-192s. The CRS-1 SIP is even more fun–it supports POS OC-3s, POS OC-192, and GigE. No OC-12 or OC-48 support, apparently.

So, even though the cards are called “shared port adapters,” there are some real limits on which chassis will work with which cards. The DS3 SPA will apparently only work on the 7600 and 12000, and not on the CRS-1 or 7304. I suspect that a lot of this is mostly a driver support problem, but it shows how screwed up and fractured Cisco’s product lineup is.