Cisco Preps Its Next Core Router: The 'CTR'

The next Cisco Systems Inc. is apparently named the "CTR" and is aiming for densities of at least 1Tbit/s per slot, according to a Cisco document obtained by Light Reading. Plenty of details are left out, such as when the CTR might ship. But the document makes it clear that the platform is meant to be a step beyond the CRS-3 core router:
  • The router would support 1Tbit/s per slot in the form of a card with ten 100Gbit/s ports. Whether this card would be available right away isn't clear. That would still fall short of the 12 100Gbit/s ports per card that Arista announced for its switches, but, depending on when the card arrives, it could be the best density for a core router. As a point of comparison, the Alcatel-Lucent 7950 Extensible Routing System got announced last year with a theoretical per-slot capacity of 1.6Tbit/s (800Gbit/s if you're not double-counting the traffic).
  • It would double as an MPLS label-switched router, to provide the kind of Layer 2 "lean core" (Cisco's phrase) that some carriers are talking about. (See Verizon Builds an MPLS Metro with AlcaLu and Juniper Aims Big With 100G Optical.)
  • It would be an ASIC-driven design, as usual. The network processor involved would carry 336 packet-processing cores on-chip and would handle both Ethernet processing and OTN framing.
Cisco declined to comment on any of this, but sources close to the company confirmed Thursday that that a new core-routing platform is planned for launch later this year. Such a system would give Cisco an answer to the Leading-Lights-award-winning AlcaLu 7950, which Cisco initially disparaged as not being a core core router. (See Alcatel-Lucent Thumbs Its Nose at Cisco.) Separately, the document appears to confirm plans to produce 10Gbit/s and 40Gbit/s versions of the CPAK interface -- that is, modules with ten 10Gbit/s ports or two 40Gbit/s ports. CPAK is Cisco's home-grown optical interface module, built with silicon photonics and providing power and density levels compatible with the CFP2 standard. (See Cisco Defends Its 100G Project.) — Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading
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desiEngineer 5/31/2013 | 10:34:33 PM
re: Cisco Preps Its Next Core Router: The 'CTR' Craig,

So is cisco double-counting when they say 1Tbps per slot (since you made it a point to mention ALU's capacity per slot)? I guess so, since cisco invented double-counting. And how would a system with 1Tbps per slot be an answer to 1.6Tbps per slot?

Full-service router or not? Any info on whether this core core router can support L3VPNs, L2VPNs, queuing, etc., or is it just a cisco version of PTX?

No 100Gbps ports initially? LOL. What kind of self-respecting core router comes out of the closet without 100Gbps ports? Even the CRS-3 has 100Gbps ports. I'd have thought cisco would have leapfrogged the competition with something better than that.

Tyler Smith 5/31/2013 | 10:46:27 PM
re: Cisco Preps Its Next Core Router: The 'CTR' I think you mean 7950. :)
Craig Matsumoto 5/31/2013 | 11:10:01 PM
re: Cisco Preps Its Next Core Router: The 'CTR' Indeed I do. Spellchecker isn't smart enough to catch that one for some reason. (And apparently, neither was I.) :) Thanks!
Craig Matsumoto 5/31/2013 | 11:16:52 PM
re: Cisco Preps Its Next Core Router: The 'CTR' I don't think Cisco is double-counting to get to 1Tbit/s, because they're talking about a 10x100G card. So, it's 1 terabits worth of ports, or, 2Tbit/s if you're double-counting.

Re: Full service router etc -- can't say for sure. My gut impression is that it is, but I don't have specifics to back that up.

It very much *will* start with 100G ports, just not 10 of them on a card all at once. I'd assume it'll start with 2x100G or 4x100G cards. The thing seems to be all about 100G density.

So, on the surface: Yes, I do think it's an answer to the 7950. Not saying it beats the 7950; you can think of the CTR as more a catchup if you want.
xieyaohui 6/1/2013 | 12:13:11 AM
re: Cisco Preps Its Next Core Router: The 'CTR' How many slots? How to beat ALU7950?
rodolg 6/1/2013 | 2:31:12 AM
re: Cisco Preps Its Next Core Router: The 'CTR' Following the phrase "MPLS label-switched router, to provide the kind of Layer 2 "lean core, it seems to me that this router will be more oriented to do MPLS switching without full intelligence (Service Router).... Additionally the article says that it will incorporate OTN Framing....sounds like MLO (Multilayer Optimization) .... Remember that some carriers are looking forward to reduce the cost in the backbone using a more optimized solution that will reduce the power consumption, cost of routing ports etc, a router specialized more on the MPLS switching without too much intelligence (L2VPN, L3VPN, BGP etc...) and incorporating OTN framing can probably provide a lower cost and optimized solution on the backbone.... so for me maybe this Cisco CTR router is more like a Juniper PTX product than an Alcatel 7950 product.
mark-r 6/3/2013 | 3:14:32 PM
re: Cisco Preps Its Next Core Router: The 'CTR' Is this intended for pure-L2 MPLS-TP switching core and transport?

I think the focus nominal port bit rates is misdirected. The major problem has been, and increasingly is, low revenue-generating traffic utilization of the theoretically network bandwidth rates. The reasons for the low effective utilization include all forms and layers of protocol stack and signaling etc overhead, as well as non-adaptive bandwidth physical layer channelization.

Is CTR delivering something to improve the bandwidth utilization rates, e.g. via the discussed multi-layer-optimization?

Overall, having an ASIC based hardware appears as a smart way to mitigate the potential SDN-over-whitebox hardware competition. But what do new CSCO ASICs do that generic (commercial chip based) hardware cannot, irrespective of how 'software-defined'?

Again, multi-layer-optimization in ASICs would seem like a clever approach.
dwx 6/4/2013 | 2:46:12 PM
re: Cisco Preps Its Next Core Router: The 'CTR' The CTR has been in development for a long time, I don't think it's any kind of "response" to ALU or Juniper.

From what I've heard the approach will be like the CRS to have certain line cards available to do full routing, some will be more LSR functionality only. There should be 10x100G LSR cards available from the get go, but less density for the IPoDWDM type cards with fixed coherent/long-haul optics. Of course optics vendors are starting to come out with their own DWDM OTU4 optics to be used in a standard CFP slot.

The only thing I've heard I don't like is that it's a behemoth, and needs a full 23" rack to fit in.
Craig Matsumoto 6/4/2013 | 9:04:06 PM
re: Cisco Preps Its Next Core Router: The 'CTR' Yeah, I know it's been years in the making - these things always are.
I don't think it was developed *because* of the 7950 - but Cisco has no
direct answer to that box on the market yet (Cisco would tell you to
count the CRS). That's what I meant.

What you're
saying about the LSR cards would make sense. I do think the CTR would
be a full-fledged router (it makes little sense for Cisco to not do that) with, as you said, an option to stuff it like an LSR, as the CRS platform has.
Roland 6/6/2013 | 9:27:23 PM
re: Cisco Preps Its Next Core Router: The 'CTR' I wonder if this CTR is based on the same hardware as the MDS 9710 SAN director? That platform supports 1.2 Tbps per line card slot when equipped with six crossbar fabric modules and runs NX-OS.
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