HFR, Where Are You?

A recent uptick in IP routing activity in the carrier market has brought back questions about Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) next-generation router strategy.

Unlike Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), its chief competitor, Cisco hasn't announced its next-gen router strategy. Industry pundits have long assumed the company's pinning its hopes on a project referred to as the Huge Fast Router (HFR), a closely guarded multichassis platform that could be either imagined or real (see Cisco's Got a Terabit Router Too and Source: Cisco's HFR Tips the Scales). In the interim, competitors see a chance here to bypass Cisco and shore up high-end business, as carriers are preparing to revamp core networks.

This was demonstrated recently when Juniper won the routing portion of the large government GIG-BE project -- including the core routing piece, as Light Reading had reported in September. (See DISA Deal Is Done and GIG-BE Winners Named.) Then came Juniper's recent quarterly earnings announcement, which indicated that the carrier routing market could be heating up again (see Juniper Confidently Carries Q4).

Meanwhile, Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) and Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7) are now working on a strategic partnership through which Nortel will resell Avici's routers in the carrier market (see Avici, Nortel Get 'Strategic').

Cisco says it won't comment on future product development or publicly acknowledge the HFR's existence, and officials continue to say they don't see an immediate need to offer a multichassis router. It appears that the company is following the tried-and-true incumbent strategy of moving slowly and carefully on new product upgrades for its large installed base.

"People will wait for Cisco," says Debra Mielke, a principal at consulting firm Treillage Network Strategies Inc. "If I were a carrier, I'd wait rather than spend a gajillion dollars retraining people."

Indeed, the introduction of a new vendor's routers into a network incurs costs for testing and training. With profitability being a top concern, few carriers will accept those costs just for the sake of glitzy technology.

Analyst Erik Suppiger of Pacific Growth Equities Inc. is less convinced, noting that customers are getting antsy to see a next-generation road map out of Cisco. Still, he agrees Cisco can afford to lag competitors. "Cisco is not necessarily the first to deliver on next-generation products, but they do it in a timely enough manner," he says. Others believe it's about time Cisco made its strategy and product roadmap clear.

"There is going to be this upgrade cycle of the core over the next couple of years, so it's important to have something in there," says Kevin Mitchell, analyst with Infonetics Research Inc.

Cisco can expect more pressure. Within months, Juniper is expected to announce its own multichassis platform based on the TX, an optical switch linking up to eight of the company's T640 high-end routers. Meanwhile, Juniper continues bolstering the T640's position, adding wins in KT Corp. and Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) networks (see Juniper Goes Terabit With the T640, KT Uses More Juniper, and Siemens, Juniper Upgrade T-Com).

HFR customers were reportedly in the software-evaluation stage last fall, so a new Cisco system might not be ready for launch until 2005, Mitchell says.

That leaves the aging 12000 series of core routers as Cisco's only weapon against the TX or Avici's TSR. Next to the others, the 12000 doesn't provide that "next-generation" kind of feeling. Take interface density, for example. Critics point out that Cisco's highest-end box, the 12816 announced in December, offers only two OC192 ports per slot. The four-port per shelf version isn't available yet. The T640, by contrast, was announced in 2002 with four OC192 ports per slot, and Avici has long said it supports four OC192s per slot.

Here's how the companies' high-end offerings stack up:

Table 1: High-End Routers
System Configuration Max Switching Capacity Status
Cisco 12816
1 box, full rack
640 Gbit/s Shipping
Juniper T640
1 box, half rack
320 Gbit/s Shipping
Avici TSR
14 racks*
5.6 Tbit/s Shipping
Juniper TX
8 T640s
2.56 Tbit/s Launching in 2004
Cisco HFR
18 chassis
5.68 Tbit/s or 11.35 Tbit/s **
* The TSR grows in 40-Gbit/s increments, with 400 Gbit/s switching capacity possible per rack. Avici says it can link 14 racks of TSRs but believes even larger configurations are possible.

** projected capacity

(Switching capacities are listed without using Cisco's "doubling up" method. Cisco counts both incoming and outgoing traffic, producing switching-capacity figures that are twice as large as other vendors'. The HFR is reported to have 11.35-Tbit/s switching capacity; it seems likely that figure is doubled, meaning the HFR is closer to Avici's 5.6-Tbit/s level.)

So should Cisco hit the panic button? Mitchell doesn't think so, even if the HFR doesn't surface this year. For starters, the company's market share in core routers remains high, as Cisco took 72 percent of the $351.4 million core router market for the third quarter of 2003, by Infonetics' reckoning. "Until that's slanting down due to competition, [the HFR delay] is nothing to worry about," he says.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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hayward 12/5/2012 | 2:39:05 AM
re: HFR, Where Are You? Hey, how about Cisco buying Procket for a core strategy!
jeepman 12/5/2012 | 2:39:03 AM
re: HFR, Where Are You? Whoops, didn't you forget Procket at the top of the list:

Procket 8812 - 1 box, half rack - 480 Gbit/s - Shipping
coreghost 12/5/2012 | 2:39:02 AM
re: HFR, Where Are You?
When you say "shipping", warehousing systems in Japan doesn't count.

Get a real customer, get deployed product and then get on the list.

coreghost 12/5/2012 | 2:39:02 AM
re: HFR, Where Are You?
Given that procket's product isn't appealing to carriers anymore
than the HFR is, why would cisco buy them?

The cult of Tony Li's celebrity aside, nobody has found much of
a compelling reason why anyone should buy what procket has

signmeup 12/5/2012 | 2:39:01 AM
re: HFR, Where Are You? coreghost-

Just because you have a beef with procket doesn't mean that they are not shipping production products. There are several production customers announced on their web page that are NOT in Japan.

Finally, LR continues to demonstrate its complete incompetence for putting out an article talking about core routing and not mentioning procket once in the article. You guys are a complete joke!

5urf5hop 12/5/2012 | 2:38:59 AM
re: HFR, Where Are You? Who wants to bet that "coreghost" works for Juniper?
coreghost 12/5/2012 | 2:38:57 AM
re: HFR, Where Are You? Why don't we put all the childish nonsense away
and discuss procket.

The problem for cisco with procket is that they
get a product that is neither core or edge. Its somewhere in the middle. It doesn't really
fit either role well.

The problem with the HFR is that cisco tried real hard to sell it to many providers and the providers mostly didn't like it. But those same people were not big on procket either.

To be taken seriously, procket has to sign a real deal. Until they do, they dont deserve to be
lists with established companies.
DocGonzo 12/5/2012 | 2:38:55 AM
re: HFR, Where Are You? signmeup said

"Just because you have a beef with procket doesn't mean that they are not shipping production products. There are several production customers announced on their web page that are NOT in Japan."

Let's also put that into perspective. Hmm, there is University College London, Stealth Communications, and University of Cambridge. They don't seem to be significant consumers of large core routers to me.

Until Procket (or any other start-up for that matter) is pervasively installed in several large internet backbone networks, for more than 6 months, they are not even in the same league as Cisco and Juniper. Avici still has yet to cross that chasm (to coin a phrase) as well.

I am not saying Procket will never accomplish this, but they really haven't announced anything impressive to date. The leading indicator will be when their name is not spelled "Other" on the quarterly market share numbers from Dell O'ro, etc.

andropat 12/5/2012 | 2:38:53 AM
re: HFR, Where Are You? DocGonzo,

Well put my friend. And even if they announce a major deal..unless it's something seriously significant it won't impress me. Tony and those guys I have no doubt will get one maybe even two reputable people to deploy their product. hell Avici has announced ATT forever now and they still don't get respect. ATT is huge and avici could be in any number of router roles.

The bottomline is that I don't care who procket is or who works there. Buying from a startup is risky.. end of story. Juniper filled a "need" back in 98 to 00/01. The internet "needed" a second player for reasons technical, political, and financial. The internet needs NO third player. So trying and hoping that cisco and juniper hickup here and there to win business from is just not a winning proposition in my mind.

edgecore 12/5/2012 | 2:38:53 AM
re: HFR, Where Are You? The article should read, HFR Software, How Are You?

Take old spaghetti code, port it to a new RTOS, try to break it into modules and then run it in a symmetric multiprocessor environment on a new processor architecture....no probs!

...combine this with a market that has limited pull for these huge core boxes...you get...delays!

LR, promise us no more HFR articles until it is actually released or cancelled...deal?


Its probably a tough job
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