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Avici's Incredible Shrinking Router

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
12/11/2002
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Core router vendor Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7) has shrunk the size of its router again (see Avici Intros Tiny Router). This is the second time in two years the company has sliced the size of its core router in half (see Avici Intros Tiny TSR).

The new 10-slot QSR is half the size of the 22-slot SSR, which is half the size of the 44-slot TSR, the original flagship Avici router. Lined up side by side, the Avici portfolio looks like Russian Matruska dolls.

The company has also introduced some new hardware that will be used in all three products. It’s now shipping its latest route processor module that enables the nonstop routing function demonstrated at the Supercomm tradeshow in Atlanta (see Avici Touts Router Reliability). It has also introduced new OC48 (2.5 Gbit/s) and OC192 (10 Gbit/s) line cards that double its port density across its portfolio. And lastly, it will be shipping its new 10-Gigabit Ethernet module in the first part of next year.

With the new line cards and route processor, the QSR becomes a very attractive option for carriers looking to conserve space and operational costs in their points-of-presence (POPs). This is crucial in a market where carriers continue to focus on reducing costs.

“To be successful in the core router market, you have to be able to offer a wide range of products to fit the different requirements,” says Kevin Mitchell, an analyst with market research firm, Infonetics Research Inc. “And I guess the SSR wasn’t small enough for some customers.”

But a small footprint isn’t the only thing needed. With the prospect of upgrading to 40 Gbit/s still in the distant future, carriers are looking for better density on existing high-speed interfaces. Avici has answered this call.

The new OC48 card has four ports instead of two, which means that it supports 40 OC48 ports in a single QSR. The company has also finally shrunk the size of its OC192 line card. While the card still only has one port, it now fits into a single slot instead of taking up two. All told, the QSR can accommodate up to 10 OC192 ports in the 10-slot chassis. Improving the OC192 card was crucial, considering that both Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) have already been selling OC192 cards that fit into one slot.

The new route processor is also crucial for saving space and operational costs. Avici’s nonstop routing function improves routing reliability to the point where carriers don’t need to deploy a second router for redundancy. Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) has already announced a similar approach to router reliability (see Alcatel Debuts Non-Stop Routing). Cisco and Juniper offer a similar feature they call nonstop forwarding.

“Router reliability is a hot topic with router vendors and carriers,” says Mitchell. “It’s really the 'secret sauce' of routing. Right now everyone has their own approach, but I’m sure it will be standardized so that routers from different vendors can talk to one another.”

Mitchell adds that built-in router reliability is still in its early days, and it will take time before carriers trust it enough to stop deploying a standby router in the core.

All of these improvements are important differentiators for Avici, which for the past three years has struggled to win market share. In the third quarter of 2002, the core router market was $306 million, according to Infonetics research. Cisco had 76 percent, Juniper 16 percent, and Avici came in with 2 percent.

Most likely the QSR will compete against the GSR 12406 from Cisco and the T320 from Juniper. These routers are all comparable in size and capacity. For example, the 12406 chassis fits in one quarter of a seven-foot rack and has a forwarding capacity of 60 Gbit/s. The T320, which has 160 Gbit/s of capacity, fits in a third of a seven-foot rack. The QSR is also a quarter of a rack high and supports 100 Gbit/s worth of capacity.

But unlike these other products, the QSR is based on a scaleable architecture. This means that multiple QSRs can be stacked together to create a larger, single logical router. This is not the case with the competing routers. To date, Cisco has not announced plans for a scaleable router. While Juniper’s larger T640 was designed to scale in this way, the T320 was not (see Juniper Shrinks Its SuperCore Router).

“A lot of our customers, particularly those in Asia, don’t think they will ever need the capacity of a large core router,” says Esmeralda Swartz, director of strategic marketing. “But they want the insurance to grow beyond that just in case.”

Avici says that it has already recognized revenue on the QSR but has not named customers yet. It says that it has been testing the gear with current customers. So far it has announced AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T), France Telecom SA (NYSE: FTE), and Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd. as TSR customers. Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q) and Global NAPs have deployed the SSR. And the United States Department of Energy has deployed both the SSR and TSR.

Avici’s stock was down $0.14 (3.79%) to $3.55 in afternoon trading.

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading
www.lightreading.com

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skeptic
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skeptic,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 9:12:15 PM
re: Avici's Incredible Shrinking Router
Cisco and Juniper offer a similar feature they call nonstop forwarding.
------------------

Thats not correct. Cisco and Juniper are offering
a feature that is meant to confuse service
providers into thinking they have similar
functionality, but they are offering something
quite different.

Cisco and Juniper are offering a solution where
the router essentially restarts/reloads.
Thats a very different solution from what
Avici/Alcatel/others say they have.

And the rumor now is that cisco/juniper know
that what they have isn't good enough at least
internally.
gigeguy
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gigeguy,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 9:12:13 PM
re: Avici's Incredible Shrinking Router
It's great to see that they're willing to use some of that cash they stockpiled in the good old days to support ongoing R&D. That's exceptional in today's climate. I wish them success with their new products, so they can keep on spending on R&D! :-)
turing
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turing,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 9:12:13 PM
re: Avici's Incredible Shrinking Router
The guy says "Right now everyone has their own approach, but IGm sure it will be standardized so that routers from different vendors can talk to one another.Gǥ confuses me. I thought Avici and Alacatel's version doesn't require any standards - it's all internal.
(I know Cisco is pushing more RFCs on us, as usual)
digerato
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digerato,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 9:12:13 PM
re: Avici's Incredible Shrinking Router
"I thought Avici and Alacatel's version doesn't require any standards - it's all internal.
(I know Cisco is pushing more RFCs on us, as usual)"

The idea is that if your router crashes and loses some or all of its BGP state, a "standby" route processor should be able to come up and acquire the necessary state without causing all of its adjacencies to flap. That requires cooperation from BGP neighbors -- hence changes to BGP.

One might suggest a form of redundancy where BGP state is never lost...

Cheers,

Digerato
jamesbond
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jamesbond,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 9:12:12 PM
re: Avici's Incredible Shrinking Router
The idea is that if your router crashes and loses some or all of its BGP state, a "standby" route processor should be able to come up and acquire the necessary state without causing all of its adjacencies to flap. That requires cooperation from BGP neighbors -- hence changes to BGP.
-------------------

No that does not require cooperation from BGP
neighbors. As long as they have figured out
a way to keep TCP on two boards in sync,
neighbors will not even notice. There are a
number of ways to do this.

skeptic
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skeptic,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 9:12:12 PM
re: Avici's Incredible Shrinking Router
The guy says "Right now everyone has their own approach, but IGm sure it will be standardized so that routers from different vendors can talk to one another.Gǥ confuses me. I thought Avici and Alacatel's version doesn't require any standards - it's all internal.
(I know Cisco is pushing more RFCs on us, as usual)
-------------------------

Cisco marketing has a very deliberate strategy
to use "standardization" to confuse the
marketplace. And as you can see from the light
reading article, its working rather well.

Before people started demonstrating these
technologies, the standard answer from cisco
was that any solution but theirs was "impossible".

Now, even solutions that are contained within
a single router and involve no standards changes
at all are attacked by cisco and juniper for
not having the IETF seal of approval.

beltway_light
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beltway_light,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 9:12:10 PM
re: Avici's Incredible Shrinking Router
it's all great if someone figured out
all the corner cases, handles this this
large number of bgp peers and heavy updates.
also it it willing to pay the price of
updating the other "RP" constantly with
the current state. all the power for them.
but i am just wondering isn't it great if
you don't need to keep all those states,
just let the neighbors to tell you after
you restart, what's wrong with that? even
it sometimes needs a couple of IETF documents.
beetlejuice
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beetlejuice,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 9:12:10 PM
re: Avici's Incredible Shrinking Router
Jesus Christ ! Sounds like Avici marketing team here putting the air fresheners around the corpse.

<1% market share, Kick Ass !
cc_junk
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cc_junk,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 9:12:05 PM
re: Avici's Incredible Shrinking Router
Reply to beltway_light post#7:

"but i am just wondering isn't it great if
you don't need to keep all those states,
just let the neighbors to tell you after
you restart, what's wrong with that? even
it sometimes needs a couple of IETF documents."

Then all your neighbors must support and be interoperable for these extensions. That may be fine in the core of your network where you control what is deployed (and ironically, that is where Avici is mostly). But at the edge, are you going to require your customer base to upgrade their CPE routers so you can provide them high-availability? Isn't that the carrier's responsibility?

With the approach of Avici and Alcatel, your customers don't have to do anything for you to provide non-service affecting upgrades, failovers, maintenance. Sounds like a very worthwhile invention to me.

I recall that Amber networks was the first to have this high availability capability without changing protocols. Indeed, I believe that was Nokia's primary motivation for purchasning Amber - to obtain that high availability technology. Don't know whatever Nokia produced from that purchase.

High-availability for IP routing protocols has been demonstrated without changing the protocols. So why change them? Just so that we can accommodate the incumbents (Cisco and Juniper) who did not design for this to begin with and have to resort to unsatisfactory kluge to get some form of high-availability?

Shouldn't change protocols just because of some vendors development weaknesses. But their marketing machinery wants you to believe that their protocol changes have nothing to do with their weakness. To me their spinning and rationalizations are hollow.
capolite
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capolite,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 9:12:04 PM
re: Avici's Incredible Shrinking Router
Don't be so fast. Level 3 is about to make a serious commitment to the new Avici router. Marcy, care to comment?
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