Cisco's CRS-1 Passes Our Test

While taking Cisco's mega-router for a spin, Light Reading's testers find the box lives up to some big promises

November 30, 2004

4 Min Read
Cisco's CRS-1 Passes Our Test

As the first commercially shipping router sporting OC768 interfaces, the Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) CRS-1 Carrier Routing System is living up to its billing, according to results of a test commissioned by Light Reading.

The router passed its first-ever independent test with flying colors, giving some credence to Cisco's claims that the CRS-1 is winning hearts among the 14 carriers that have taken it for a spin (see Cisco Stumps for CRS-1). The CRS-1 test was a crucial hurdle to pass, according to Mike Volpi, the executive in charge of Cisco's router division (see the new Light Reading interview: Mike Volpi, Cisco Systems).

The results of the test, which was performed by the European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC), were published this morning (see 40-Gig Router Test Results for the detailed report). Light Reading and EANTC will present the findings in a special one-hour Webinar on Dec. 9 (details below).

The test was a Herculean effort in itself. (One contributor to the project described it as “trying to measure lightning bolts -- in mid-air.”) It took 140 hours over two weeks and involved a team of 11 engineers. That's just for the test itself; preparations required some heavy commitment from Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A), as Light Reading begged for the keys to one of the very few OC768 test ports in existence.

Not everything promised with the CRS-1 got covered in the Light Reading test. In particular, the equipment to create a gigantic multichassis router -- to try out Cisco's promised "92 Tbit/s" of capacity -- wasn't yet available. Nor were we able to create a full network of the systems to truly test their worthiness in a real-world environment.

But the testers were able to load one fully populated single-chassis with the Agilent interfaces we had available: 56 x 10-Gig plus 2 x 40-Gig equals 640 Gbit/s. They were also able to create a multichassis configuration with two of the chassis connected to each other. That produced 1.2 Tbit/s (full duplex) of capacity, and -- in case you're keeping score at home -- that's a massive IP traffic emulation.

In the other areas we could test, the CRS-1 performed on target. Those included:

  • IPv4 and IPv6 forwarding (and a mix, of course)

  • Performance under features such as quality of service (QOS) and security

  • Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) peering

  • Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) performance

  • "Hitless" performance during hardware or software upgrades, or during a failure

The methodology was devised by Light Reading with scrutiny from some of the technology bigwigs at Tier 1 carriers.

The project didn't start out as a CRS-1 lovefest. Rather, Light Reading wanted to test all routers with 40-Gbit/s interfaces, a group test similar to those we've performed previously (for examples, see Corporate-Grade WLAN Test Proposal and Content Switch Test). But with Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7) and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) saying their OC768 interfaces are still in the works, the CRS-1 became the lone entrant in this category.

That didn't spoil the party, though, because the CRS-1 itself is well worth a peel of the onion. The project started four years ago -- and was probably kicked around as a concept long before that -- as the Huge Fast* Router; and in the years before its launch, it was often the subject of industry whispers but never confirmed by Cisco. The covers finally came off in May, when the CRS-1 got its formal debut at a gala media event discussing the next 20 years of Cisco (see Cisco's Got a Terabit Router Too and Cisco Unveils the HFR).

Of course, that event came with extra helpings of hyperbole, but there's some truth in that "next 20 years" part. As Volpi noted in the aforementioned interview, the CRS-1 isn't financially important -- it won't rate more than 10 percent of Cisco's revenues, and that's if the routers fly off the shelves. The significance lies in the CRS-1 pieces that will define the future of Cisco's carrier business. For example, future carrier-class equipment will run on IOS XR, the modular operating system introduced with the CRS-1. Other features and advancements debuting with the CRS-1 will also see their way into other products, Volpi says.

The full test report -- along with some feedback from those carrier representatives, discussing the points the test missed -- is available here.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

* Yes, we know the "F" didn't really stand for "Fast."

SUPERWEBINAR ALERTOn Thursday, December 9, at 12 noon New York / 9 a.m. California / 5 p.m. London time, during a free hour-long live Web seminar, representatives from Light Reading, EANTC, Agilent, and Cisco will present the results of the CRS-1 test and answer questions about them. Telecom Italia will also be participating.

To register for the December 9 Webinar click here.

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