Cisco GSR 12000 Sent to the Edge
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) announced today new edge routing interfaces for its GSR 12000 routers. Originally, the GSR 12000 was designed as a high-end core router, but as service providers demand more capacity, the GSR’s are being pushed toward the edge of the core network, where they’re used to offload aggregated traffic onto carrier Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) backbones.
Cisco first started outfitting the GSR 12000 routers for edge duty a year-and-a-half ago when it introduced the IP Services Engine (ISE). Originally, it only offered packet-over-Sonet (POS) interfaces. With today’s announcement it will also offer a four-port ATM module and a four-port Gigabit Ethernet module.
The move makes economic sense. The edge routing market is expected to grow at a rate of 18 percent every year for the next five years, according to a recent study by Yankee Group. That report predicts that by 2006 the market will be worth more than $3 billion.
Of course, the move may also leaves some folks wondering: Is this a retreat from the core, where competitor Juniper Networks Inc. Nasdaq: JNPR) recently upgraded its system with the T640? As carriers need more capacity and deploy bigger, faster boxes, they push older devices, like the GSR platform, to the edge. Unlike Juniper, Cisco hasn’t announced any plans for a new core platform. But it is rumored to have one in the works.
“Over time it will be important for Cisco to introduce a next-generation box,” says Erik Suppiger, an analyst with Pacific Growth Equities Inc. “But Cisco is in the enviable position that they don’t need to deliver products to market until there is a real market there. Right now, I’d say, that isn’t a top priority for carriers.”
Jeff Baher, senior marketing manager in the routing technology group for Cisco, argues that the GSR 12000 isn’t running out of steam as a core router. He contends that service providers are using the new edge interfaces to consolidate edge and core functions into the same box. He adds that this can save them up to 80 percent on power consumption and rack-space usage.
Baher is also careful to point out that, even though the GSR offers some edge functionality, it does not compete against traffic aggregation devices like the ERX from Juniper or the SmartEdge from Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK). Cisco has the 7600, which aggregates Ethernet traffic, and the Cisco 10000, which aggregates broadband traffic, to compete in that part of the market.
While those devices aggregate customer traffic, the GSR 12000 is used in large carrier networks to aggregate traffic from multiple networks. It can also be used for service provider peering, hooking one carrier’s network to another. Only in rare cases would it be used to connect very high-end enterprises with a provider backbone.
As for these modules in particular, Baher says the new ATM module is important because it allows carriers to integrate their ATM and Frame Relay services over a high-speed IP/MPLS backbone. Carriers like Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q) are already doing this. It allows them to get rid of their separate ATM network and run all their traffic over a common MPLS backbone.
The new Ethernet interfaces offer carriers an affordable alternative to POS for high-speed interconnections within their own data centers. Baher says that both line cards deliver comprehensive IPv6 features, IP quality of service (QOS), and advanced queuing for tiered service offerings.
— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading