Cisco Sprints Ahead With HFR
When Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) needed a friendly test bed for the most advanced routing platform in its history, the data networking vendor ran to Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON). In fact, long-time Cisco customer Sprint has been testing Cisco's legendary Huge Fast Router* (HFR) router for "several years," say two sources familiar with the situation.
The HFR is Cisco's über core router, said to be able to handle OC768 connections, with 40-Gbit/s line cards and a backplane that scales up to 11.5 Tbit/s, as Light Reading reported last year (see Source: Cisco's HFR Tips the Scales, HFR, Where Are You?).
The HFR isn't just hulking; it's said to be more scaleable than anything Cisco's ever built. Sources say it can be configured as a single core router; a dual core router, interconnected with a 1.2-Tbit/s parallel-optical link; or as a multi-core platform, with two core chassis that interconnect up to 18 chassis.
For months it's been rumored that AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) and others have been testing Cisco's software, hardware prototypes, and various HFR bits 'n' pieces. Light Reading sources say that Sprint definitely has the whole kit 'n' caboodle in its labs, but no one can get a bead on what level of success they're having with it.
Cisco's executives have told publications that the company will show off the HFR at Supercomm in Chicago. Such an announcement is typically accompanied by a customer win. Join the dots, and it seems likely that such a public unveiling will be the precursor for significant deployment of the HFR by year's end.
Sources close to Cisco say it had been itching to parade the HFR in the spotlight earlier, but technical bugs have, well, bugged the project since its inception. "Cisco was supposed to have the HFR on display at Telecom Geneva," says one core routing expert. "But all they had was a PC running the CLI [command line interface] tucked away in a back room."
But why is Sprint testing the HFR? Well, there's some history there. Cisco's current core router family, the 12000 series, was first deployed in 1997. Sprint had a hand (a Lothberg, actually) in its development and was one of the very first carriers to have the router in its IP network. It even publicized what is said to be the world's first OC12 packet-over-Sonet IP networks using 12000 series routers.
"Sprint has very much been the driving force behind HFR, even though they think that it's too small," says another industry routing expert familiar with HFR.
Too small? Yes, indeed. Our expert says that though the HFR is quite a chunk, a yet-larger chunk is needed in the face of "the continuing exponential growth of the Internet."
And, though Sprint's entire network doesn't gibe with Cisco's vision of convergence, Sprint does seem primed to keep Cisco at its core. "Sprint... [is] using a technology that delivers essentially the same kind of value that MPLS does," Mike Volpi, senior VP and general manager of Cisco's Routing Technology Group, told Heavy Reading last year.
"The result is the same: they're converging the core to a single network. When I say converging, they're converging that in a number of phases, but initially they'll probably do Layer 2 services like ATM and Frame Relay off the same core, they'll do IP services off the same core, and so forth."
Cisco won't comment on future product development nor publicly acknowledge the HFR's existence.
Sprint did not respond to requests for comment.
— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading
* Don't bother writing in, we know that "fast" isn't the word Cisco was really using...