Jim Duffy: Core, shmore: Cisco says metro makes market hot

While anticipation builds for Juniper’s next high-end router, Cisco Systems Inc. couldn’t be bothered with the Internet core.

The company is currently fixated on the metro edge while the rest of the industry is fixated on rival Juniper’s next-generation core router. That system, referred to as “Gibson,” has the industry abuzz about 40Gbps-per-slot capacity and multi-chassis scalability into the terabit range – the same router hot buttons from three or four years ago.

But 40G and terabit talk is just that to Cisco right now: talk.

“Traffic has slowed,” says Robert Redford, vice-president of marketing in Cisco’s Internet Router group. “The next big router is not as much of an issue anymore.”

Tell that to the Juniper watchers.

Instead, the focus – or Cisco’s anyway – is on IP for the metro and edge. This year, carriers are demanding 10Gbps capabilities in smaller form factors and a six-month return on investment, he says. And the ability to generate new revenue by provisioning Ethernet to multi-tenant buildings over resilient, non-standard fibre rings optimized for packets…well, that’s the ticket.

Core schmore.

“There’s been absolutely no traction in terabit,” Redford says. “Purchase behaviour has been different from the hype.”

Hype that Cisco helped fan 25 months ago when it unveiled the 16-slot 12016 Internet Router. At that time, Cisco said the 12016 could be scaled into a 5-terabit/sec system by connecting multiple chassis to a separate 256×256 switching matrix.

Since then, Cisco’s been conspicuously silent on terabit scalability while rumours have swirled that Cisco’s had to rework its terabit plans more than once. But Redford is right: the market for terabit-scale routers hasn’t exactly scorched the earth.

As a result, Cisco’s terabit plans are still evolving. But the company has not abandoned the multi-chassis approach to terabit scalability, even though external fabrics may be costly in port, slot and rack space consumption.

“Are we committed to external fabrics? Yeah,” Redford says. “Do we need to get there this year? No.”

Next year is the next wave in backbone growth, he says. This gives Cisco time to build a business case for IP in the metro while others worry about the core.

“We’re in good shape, we’ve got the biggest router and the biggest share,” Redford says. “Everyone’s trying to catch up to us.”

Duffy is a writer for Network World (U.S.). He can be reached at jduffy@nww.com.