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Routing

Cisco Beefs Up Carrier Routing

Cisco has introduced a new virtual router designed for carriers who want to go into the infrastructure-as-a-service business.

In addition to the new virtual router, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) rolled out a routing software upgrade and new line cards for the ASR 9000 edge router.

The Cisco IOS XRv 9000 Virtual Router follows up on the company's existing virtual router based on the ASR 1000, designed for enterprises. The new software is designed for carriers.

"It's a new opportunity for carriers to be able to offer new managed services without having to put equipment on premises," says Greg Smith, Cisco's service provider marketing manager.

The virtual router also allows carriers to add incremental capacity where needed, entering new geographic markets without having to go to the expense of putting in a new point of presence in that market.

"Let's say I'm looking to roll out service in a small town in Latin America. I might not want to put a $50,000 router in that small town because there might not be a service need. But I can use a lower-performance virtual router. As the market grows, if it does, I can move in a physical router," Smith says. "I'm optimizing my infrastructure. I'm only paying for something when I actually need it."

The virtual router adds to nearly 50 virtual network functions in Cisco's NFV portfolio, including security, managed services, broadband, policy, and mobility applications, Cisco says. The virtual router runs on x86 hardware.

Cisco isn't the only company offering virtual routers. Brocade, Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) also have products. (See Alcatel-Lucent Joins Virtual Router Race, Juniper Launches Virtual Routers, DevOps Capabilities and Telefónica Proves Brocade Router Performs for NFV.)

Application Engineered Routing
Cisco also introduced Application Engineered Routing as a software upgrade, designed to give providers more fine control over traffic on their networks.

Typically, IP traffic takes the shortest route to its destination, but the shortest route might not be the best route. Operators might want to route traffic around congestion, or to meet service level agreements, or to bypass countries because of local regulation, Smith says. Application Engineered Routing permits that level of control.

Application Engineered Routing is based on a draft IETF standard called Segment Routing.

Segment Routing is an alternative to MPLS Traffic Engineering, the conventional means of routing traffic. MPLS TE attaches the final destination to each packet, but with Segment Routing, each packet carries the information on every step it needs to take to get to the destination.

Segment Routing reduces the number of tunnels needed to direct traffic. A Tier 1 carrier might have 50,000 MPLS-TE tunnels to manage, which requires manual configuration, Smith says.

Application Engineering Routing combines Segment Routing with SDN and analytics, to let carriers optimize the entire network to increase revenue, reduce operating expenses and achieve greater agility, Smith says.

Using Application Engineered Routing, Tier 1 carriers can reduce the number of tunnels needed from 50,000 to 50-100. And packets can receive specific QoS and other policy specifications. The routing can be application oriented, and multivendor.

New line cards
"As much as we want to virtualize the network and move everything into the cloud, that's not going to happen," Smith says. Network operators still need physical infrastructure to deliver bytes to the right location, and they need to get there at the least cost and highest performance.


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Cisco introduced new 4- and 8-port 100Gbit/s line cards for its ASR 9000, Cisco's flagship edge router for carriers, providing fourfold capacity increase. The cards use Cisco's CPAK pluggable optics, permitting individual ports to operate at 100 Gbit/s, 40 Gbit/s or 10x10 Gbit/s port. "Customers can mix and match," Smith says.

Other vendors have had supply chain problems with 100Gbit/s optics, but Cisco owns the supply chain for CPAK, so there are no availability problems, Smith says.

The network upgrades are designed to help carriers meet heightened demand for capacity. Global IP traffic will increase threefold from 2013 to 2018, a compound annual growth rate of 21%, driven by more Internet users and devices, faster broadband speeds and increased video viewing, according to Cisco's Visual Networking Index Global Forecast. Also, the Internet of Things -- which Cisco calls the Internet of Everything -- is a $1.7 trillion opportunity for service providers over the next decade, which will require evolving network infrastructure to manage M2M data. (See Cisco's VNI Shines Light on Mobile Offload and Cisco's Visual Networking Index.)

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— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

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