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IOS XR Release Strategy and Deployment Recommendation



The purpose of this document is to help you understand the IOS XR software release strategy and help you select the optimal IOS XR release for deployment in your production network.

Generic information on IOS XR release is available in the "Guidelines for Cisco IOS XR Software"document.

This documents provides an update and a recommendation for year 2020.


What Is An Extended Maintenance Release (EMR)

For us at Cisco it is very important to deliver the new features and hardware that your network requires, while at the same time maintain the high software quality. We are continuously investing efforts to improve the quality of our software and hardware. We are adjusting our culture, processes and practices to achieve that goal.

One of the key concepts in the software quality plan is the Extended Maintenance Release (EMR) introduced in IOS XR for the first time with the release 4.3.4.

Extended Maintenance Release (EMR) criteria:

  • No new software features
  • No new HW support
  • Incoming bug rate to drop by at least 90% from peak rate for that release.
  • Zero critical bugs.

By choosing the EMR for deployment, you are making the optimal choice. We will be happy to work with you on EMR early field trials or any other way to help synchronise your upgrade/migration plan with the EMR release schedule.


By selecting the EMR you are not only making sure that you are getting the best quality release, you are also selecting a release with the highest deployment rate.


Benefit Of Upgrading To A Most Recent EMR

Software Stability

  • Improved Software Stability:
    • Reduced number of SMU’s and SMU’s that need reboot. 59% Improvement, normalizing by Installed base, in the last 3 years.
    • 42% Improvement on Sev. 1&2 SW defects (2019 Vs. 2017).
  • Improved system debuggability


  • Enhanced Network Availability
  • Reduced Time to Restore
  • Reduced Business Impact and operational costs

Software Quality

  • Improved SW Quality:
    • Reduced Number of SW Incidents 58% Improvement of 6.4.2 Vs. 5.3.3. normalizing SW defects by Installed base (3 Years timeframe)
    • 40% Improvement of 6.4.2 Vs. 5.3.4. (≈ 2 years timeframe)
    • Improved system debuggability


  • Enhanced Operational Excellence
  • Reduced time to Resolution
  • Reduced Operational Cost

Vulnerability Risk:

  • Reduced PSIRT exposure

New functionalities:

  • New Features for new Services



Managing Your IOS XR Install Base

Keeping your IOS XR installation up to date with is very important. We continue providing software patches through Software Maintenance Units (SMUs) and Service Packs (SPs).


Manual SMU and SP install is a thing of the past since the introduction of the CSM Server. CSM Server is a web based server side automation and orchestration framework designed to ease the SW maintenance for all IOS XR platforms. After installing CSM Server 4.0, in-application upgrade is available for keeping your CSM Server application up to date.


To get the glimpse of the CSM Server we highly recommend to watch the _video_. CSM Server distribution comes with a documentation included, but you can also read more about it on _supportforums_.


Another benefit of deploying EMR is that more software patches are available compared to other releases. Number of software patches (SMUs) available per release is directly proportional to the number of our customers running the release. Also, on EMR we try to provide, when technically feasible, SMUs for issues affecting the usability of IOS XR, not only for critical issues directly impacting the services. Service Packs (SPs) are also built more frequently compared to non-EMR releases.


SMU and SP concepts are explained in the "Service Pack Overview for Routers that Run Cisco IOS XR" document.


Service Packs on are built on EMR every 8 weeks. On non-EMR builds are on-demand, but never more frequent than on EMR.


Before the introduction of CSM Server, deriving the optimised SMU list for a given install base was a challenging task. Service Pack (SP) was introduced to deliver on operational simplicity.


On 32-bit IOS XR, SP is a single package that can be installed on the system regardless of the active base packages. For example, if BNG package is not active on the system, all BNG elements in the SP are ignored during SP activation.


On 64-bit IS XR, SP is a tarball containing the optimised set of production SMUs posted to date. User should unpack the tarball and install only the RPMs of interest individually or by re-packaging them into a new tarball. For better alignment to the SP concept, from year 2021 onwards the 64-bit SP will be provided in a form of a Golden ISO image.


If you are using CSM Server to manage your install base, CSM Server optimises the SMU set for you, allows you to define "software profiles" (set of base packages plus SMUs or SP) and allows you to easily install the same profile on multiple nodes. You can also run conformance reports. With this CSM Server functionality, the choice between SMU and SP is really down to a user preference. CSM Server delivers the same operational simplicity for users who prefer SMU over SP or vice versa.

64-bit vs 32-bit IOS XR

The 64-bit flavour of IOS XR is available for ASR9000 starting from XR release 6.1.2. Up to and including IOS XR major release 6.6.x,  there is no different release number for the 32-bit and 64-bit IOS XR. The 64-bit software packages are designated by the 'x64' in the package name (e.g. ASR9K-x64-iosxr-px-6.1.2.tar). Split between 32-bit and 64-bit release numbering starts with IOS XR major release 7.0.x. As a consequence, the 7.x.x releases are available only for 64-bit capable platforms. Support for 32-bit IOS XR on ASR9000 continues with 6.7.x, 6.8.x, etc.


For more information, including the required minimum hardware for running 64-bit IOS XR on ASR 9000 platform, refer to the "Cisco ASR 9000 Series IOS XR 64 Bit Data Sheet".


CSM Server contains a module that seamlessly performs the migration from 32-bit XR to 64-bit XR. We highly recommend you to watch this short demo video.


New IOS XR platforms NCS500, NCS5000 and NCS5500 only support the 64-bit flavour.


Suggestions For Year 2021

Suggested releases for validation and deployment in calendar year 2021 are:

Platform Release Comment
ASR9000 7.1.3 / 6.7.3, 7.3.2

64-bit XR:7.1.3

32-bit XR: 6.7.3; A9K-RSP440 must stay with 6.4.2 (EoS-EoL notice)

CRS 6.7.4 6.7.4 was released only for CRS
NCS540 7.2.2   
NCS560 7.2.2   
NCS5000 7.1.3; 7.2.2

7.1.3 as satellite to ASR9000;

7.2.2 for all standalone deployments

NCS5500 7.2.2  
NCS6000 7.2.2  
XRv9000 7.2.2  


The following table shows the IOS XR release schedule planning for year 2021.

IOS XR tentative release schedule

Disclaimer: future release dates and numbers are tentative and may change without notice.

(*) LA == Limited Availability. If you need access to this release please contact your account team at Cisco

Release FCS
7.1.2 EMR 2020-08-31 Posted. 64-bit only. EMR for all platforms except ASR9000(!).
7.1.3 EMR
2020-12-01 Posted. Only ASR9000, 64-bit.
6.7.3 EMR
2020-12-01 Posted. Only ASR9000, 32-bit.
7.2.2 EMR 2021-01-29 Available for all IOS XR platforms except ASR9000.
7.3.1 2021-Q1 Planned for ASR9000, 8000, NCS540, NCS560, NCS1000, NCS5500, XRv9000. NCS5000 only as ASR9000 satellite.
7.3.2 EMR 2021-Q3 May not be an EMR for all IOS XR platforms. Contact your account team for details.
7.4.1  2021-Q2 / 2021-Q3  
6.8.1 2021-Q2 / 2021-Q3 ASR9k 32-bit only; equivalent of 7.4.1.


We hope you find this document useful. Happy roll-out of IOS XR!


Related Documentation



Great document Aleksandar!

Does it mean that not every release will have version .4?

Until now we had 4.3.4, 5.3.4, and we will have 6.1.4 (EMR) in May. What is about 6.2.x?

I see that 6.2.3 will be EMR and no 6.2.4 version will be released?

Cisco Employee

hi Smail,

thanks for the feedback!

In future our plan is to meet the EMR criteria already in .3. If we see that any of the four EMR criteria are at risk, we will announce the .4. We will do our best to announce such change on this portal early enough to allow everyone to plan around it.




Hi Aleksandar

Is May a confirmed release month for 6.1.4 or are you just aiming for that. Good to know if it will be time for testing that release before the summer, or if it has to be done after the summer.

Regards Peter

Cisco Employee

cool one Aleks, thank you!

Cisco Employee

hi Peter,

May is our target, but we don't have the exact schedule yet. We will do our best to make it available for testing well before the summer holidays.




Hi Aleksandar,
thank you for sharing the "roadmap" for the year!

As far as the current EMR 5.3.4 is concerned, is there an ETA for a SP1? (considering there are 30 SMUs out already...).


Cisco Employee

hi Christoph,

I'm glad you found the page useful. :)

We are targeting 5.3.4 SP1 for mid-February.





can we expect to get SMU for CSCvc85737 in SP1?

Description: IPv6 packet drops on the path after BNG-dualstack -- IPv6 Hop-Limit  is set wrongly for PPPoE by BNG

We are running the internal version of it now and it looks ok. The bug is probably fixed.

Cisco Employee

hi Smail,

unfortunately not. CSCvc85737 was resolved two days ago. To get this fix into a Service Pack, we have to first build+test+post the production SMU. This takes 6-8 weeks from the moment the production SMU request is accepted.

I see that the owner of the TAC service request 681430453 is out until 12th of February. It would be the best if you would request the TAC service request to be re-queued to the next available engineer and have him/her raise the production SMU request on your behalf.




Petr will probably contact me as soon he is back from PTO.

Thanks for the info.

Cisco Employee

Hello Aleksandar,

thx for this page and the summary in it.

As we will deploy several versions based on 6.1.x, I wonder when the 24/36-month support-period would start or in the end, when the SW-maintenance-support will end for 6.1.2-.4.Kind Regards,


Cisco Employee

hi Andreas,

the clock starts ticking from the time first minor release was built within the major release lineup.


Cisco Employee


I assumed sth like that, but wouldn't know which minor this is in the absence of 6.1.1, or does the hidden post count?



Cisco Employee

Hello Aleksandar,

What it mean "For XR12k, 4.3.2 is hidden release", my client consider to move to another version higher, ¿what are the considerations to take for move to 4.3.2?

Cisco Employee

... from another thread I got the info that 6.1 starts with the hidden 6.1.1 by Aug 31, 2016, all set.


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