Cisco unveils 322-Terabit-per-second router

Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) has announced Carrier Routing System 3, a router that could potentially transfer voice, video and data at up to 322 Terabits per second (Tbps).
This is 12 times faster than the competition, Cisco officials said on a conference call Tuesday morning. Though they did not mention names, Juniper Networks Inc.’s (NYSE:JNPR) TX Matrix Plus has a maximum speed of 25 Tbps.
The CRS 3 announcement came nearly six years after San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco announced CRS 1, which has a maximum throughput of 92 Tbps, if you connect 72 chassis with 16 slots each together.

But most customers will not want to use more than eight chassis, said Luke Ceuppens, Juniper’s vice-president of product marketing.

“Imaging the size of switching fabric you need to integrate 72 systems in a non-blocking fashion,” he said. “Imagine the power you need to keep that thing running.”

In an interview late Tuesday afternoon, Ceuppens claimed no Cisco CRS 1 was installed with more than eight chassis. Cisco would neither confirm nor deny this claim.

“Customers have been adopting the multichassis architecture of the CRS since its introduction,” a Cisco spokesperson wrote in an e-mail to Network World Canada Wednesday. “We cannot comment on individual customer deployments at their request, but our multichassis deployments far exceed that of our competition.”

With CRS 3, “Every man, woman and child in China can make a video call at the same time,” said Pankaj Patel, Cisco senior vice-president and general manager of Cisco’s service provider group.

Or to put it another way, Patel said during a conference call, you could download all movies that were ever made in four minutes.

“It enables new generation of collaboration built around video,” said Cisco CEO John Chambers. “It brings the services of cloud to life.”

“It’s pretty impressive”, said Ronald Gruia, Toronto-based principal analyst for emerging telecoms at Frost & Sullivan. “This is raising the bar for other companies and for the market in general.”

But another Canadian analyst said he was “underwhelmed” with the CRS 3 announcement because on Monday, Cisco had promised to make an annoucment that would “forever change the Internet.”

Mark Tauschek, lead analyst at London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group, said he had expected Cisco would introduce a video device Tuesday.

“It doesn’t change the world and it doesn’t change the Internet,” Tauschek said of CRS 3. “They got people’s expectations up for something that they didn’t really accomplish.”

Still, Tauschek said, with wireless services such as High Speed Packet Access Plus (HSPA+) and Long Term Evolution (LTE), plus wide-area Ethernet, carriers will need to increase their routing capacity.

“As we go to HSPA+ and LTE and bring all the mobile connectivity, somewhere it’s got to hit the backbone, somewhere it’s got to be carried out to the public Internet,” Tauschek said.

Cisco is conducting user trials with AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) and plans to ship the CRS 3 before October.
With the CRS 3, only a multi-shelf system with 1,152 slots would get 322 Tbps. The four-slot single shelf system has 1.12 Tbps.

Cisco will also sell eight and 16-slot single shelf-systems, with 2.24 Tbps and 4.48 Tbps respectively.

Pricing starts at US$90,000.

“The base system starts out at a little over 1 Terabit per second, which is still pretty smoking fast,” Tauschek said.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Juniper announced TX Matrix Plus more than a year ago. The TX Matrix Plus is designed to form a multi-chassis routing system by connecting more than one T1600 router, which Juniper launched in 2007.

Ceuppens said the 322 Tbps of Cisco CRS 3 is more of a theoretical maximum than the throughput one could actually expect a carrier to get from a single system.

“There’s nothing wrong with the math,” Ceuppens said. “I just question the viability of that number in a real time deployment.”

He added Juniper currently has four T1600 routers with TX Matrix Pluses installed, but the maximum total throughput is 6.4 Tbps, in a four-chassis configuration.

The CRS 3 fits into Cisco’s strategy of helping large corporations use cloud computing services, Patel said.
Last year, server manufacturers including Hewlett Packard Development Co. LP (NYSE:HPQ) and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) found a potential competitor when Cisco launched Unified Computing System, a server designed specifically for virtualization.

“We can tie UCS to Nexus data centre switches and can tie it to CRS 3,” Patel said Tuesday.

“When they bring in all elements like UCS, they could put together a pretty impressive solution,” Gruia said.

Keith Cambron, president of AT&T Labs, said his company his using CRS 3 to test 100 Gigabit per second and 40 Gbps services in Florida and Louisiana.
“We are seeing routes where 40 Gbps is not enough,” Cambron said.

With CRS 3, Cisco includes Network Position System (NPS), which provides information on applications from layers 3 through 7.

The device uses Cisco’s QuantumFlow Array processor.

Gruia noted Cisco did not say much about how they designed their application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) to route traffic at 322 Tbps.
“I’d love to get a little bit more of a sense of their secret sauce,” Gruia said.



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