Cisco Pumps Up the Edge

With the release of yet another router this year, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) might finally be starting a long awaited refresh of its telecom edge portfolio.

The Nexus 7000, introduced in January, didn't do it: That's a box aimed at data center virtualization. Neither did the ASR 1000, introduced in March: Its early incarnations are too small, and it's intended to serve enterprises as well as carriers. (See Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future and Cisco Takes Hold of the Edge.)

But the ASR 9000, being introduced today, could be the eventual replacement for the Cisco 7600, an older platform that makes up a good chunk of Cisco's installed base and which, Cisco contends, may not have enough gas in the tank as telcos start handling larger volumes of video traffic.

Even if you don't want to view it as a 7600 replacement, the ASR 9000 is at least a heck of a lot bigger. "The ASR 9000 is a blockbuster machine -- it's a 'Viking' that obliterates the 7600 predecessor in capacity and, potentially, in smarts," says Infonetics Research Inc. analyst Michael Howard, referring to the box's code name.

Some of the big numbers, such as the possiblity of more than 5 Tbit/s of switching, were revealed on Halloween when a pretty accurate description of the router leaked via Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. analyst Ittai Kidron. (See Cisco Plans Edge-Router Splash.)

Possibly the most important stat is that the ASR 9000 is built to handle 400 Gbit/s of traffic per slot. That's a huge number -- even the CRS-1 gets only 40 Gbit/s per slot.

It's going to be a while before you can use all that throughput, though, as the ASR 9000's first linecards will handle just a few 10-Gbit/s lines apiece. Bigger cards will be available when the 100-Gbit/s Ethernet standard gets finalized, says Pankaj Patel, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s service provider technology group.

Cisco has also taken the opportunity to pile features into the box, including content delivery technology acquired from Arroyo Video Solutions in 2006. (See Cisco Snatches VOD Vendor Arroyo.)

And, to get the most obvious question out of the way: No, the ASR 9000 doesn't use yet another new operating system like the ASR 1000 and Nexus lines did. It runs on IOS XR, the same software powering the CRS-1 core router but not the same as the IOS XE variant running on the ASR 1000.

Cisco says the ASR 9000 was four years and $200 million in the making, with the Arroyo blade tacked onto the project midway. Light Reading heard about the development in October 2006. (See Cisco Lines Up 7600 Successor.)

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volkot 12/5/2012 | 3:27:27 PM
re: Cisco Pumps Up the Edge
Based on the early analyst leaks, I had high expectations for this launch.

But what I see so far in flash videos and PDFs looks very disappointing.

First - from the outside, ASR9K seems to be a scaled-down version of CRS-1 - same parts and mechanicals as 8-slot and 4-slot CRS machines, with the highest capacity blade being 8x10GE (likely oversubscribed 2:1 or higher).

Where did the 400Gbps per second come from???

Second, the launch campaign is heavy hitting the greenwashing - variable speed fans, modular PS and 6Tbps(???). I am struglling to remember when was the last time I saw a carrier router without variable speed fans.

Overall, it looks like little innovation, if any - very disappointing. The only good news are Arroyo blade and sync Ethernet.

Let's hope at least the price is right.

PS. I felt sorry for Pankaj Patel. He looks very uncomfortable mouthwashing zettabytes and other similar marketing BS
Steve0616 12/5/2012 | 3:27:26 PM
re: Cisco Pumps Up the Edge aggregating 40Gs? Go for it, baby. 10x40G otta make some module outfit very happy!
ckt2mpls 12/5/2012 | 3:27:26 PM
re: Cisco Pumps Up the Edge
I think you guys are missing a major point.

Yes, ASR looks much like a crippled version of CRS-1 8 and CRS-1 4, so all those zettabytes and terabits per slot are probably nothing more than usual Cisco marketing pitch.

However - CSCO has excellent track of bringing platforms to market, no matter how good or mediocre they are.

Also, the entire green theme is mostly interesting to hypocritical executives, who happily drive their S600s to work to discuss the "green" collateral. So ASR 9k plays along well - all the right buzzwords in place. Who cares when it sucks electricity like there is no tomorrow?

I predict great success for this ugly duckling
farsonic 12/5/2012 | 3:27:26 PM
re: Cisco Pumps Up the Edge Yeah, I'm totally underwhelmed compared to products already in the market.

Where does the 400Gb/s capacity come from? From what I can tell this is a re-badged (and uglier CRS-1) so presumably 40Gb/s per slot.

What about features such as QOS? Specifically H-QOS to go against the Juniper MX?

MPLS functionality? VRF and VPLS?

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:27:26 PM
re: Cisco Pumps Up the Edge The 400 Gbit/s is what Cisco swears is the per-slot throughput, so, 10x what the CRS can do. They still owe me details on how that's even possible; I'm wondering if there isn't the usual oversubscription model at work here.

Regarding zettabytes, with all due respect to the Cisco guys who have to keep saying the word... the zettabytes thing is dumb. First, the so-called zettabyte era comes from Cisco's calculation that the Internet will be passing HALF a zettabyte (500+ exabytes) of data per year in 2012. Second, I find it hard to believe that by 2012, there won't be some mitigating factor -- ultra-intense encryption, e.g. -- to bring that number down a bit.

Third, you're adding up the data per YEAR, across the whole globe. That doesn't mean anything when you're talking about what one router does in a fraction of a second.

of course, I've just wasted 4/5 of this post on something that trivial. Marketing works.
trzwuip 12/5/2012 | 3:27:25 PM
re: Cisco Pumps Up the Edge ASR 9k is scaled down CRS in same sense as
ISR is scaled down 7600, as both run IOS.

For sarcasm challenged readers, that means
they're completely different platforms
in hardware. ASR 9k is based on EZchip NP-3c
while CRS is based on SPP.
ES+ linecards in 7600 are based on very same
EZchip. So successor to 7600 (for SP markets)
is much closer analogy from hardware point of view.

There is time for re-badged scaled down CRS1,
be patient and ye shall have your target for
dirt throwing.
sgamble 12/5/2012 | 3:27:24 PM
re: Cisco Pumps Up the Edge I remember way back you did a great side-by-side comparison of a bunch of vendors. Throughput, QoS, MPLS, BGP and so on.

I would love to see that again -> Cisco ASR, Alcatel 7750 SR and Juniper's very flawed MX.

Bring it on LR. It's due...

volkot 12/5/2012 | 3:27:24 PM
re: Cisco Pumps Up the Edge
Well, I don't know what chipset ASR9K is based on and honestly I don't understand why should I care.

Now speaking of slot bandwidth - I still have a GSR 12800 sitting somewhere in my network. Last time I heard from Cisco about it was when it was marketed as a 80G/slot flagship router.

Since then, I learned to read footnotes.

To me, slot bandwidth (and system throughout) is a revenue-generating asset. Regardless of what drives ASR9K today, I have strong doubts that it's anywhere close to 400G or even 100G per slot.
Definitely not 10x the CRS-1.

Take the double math out, take the "intelligent oversubscription" out, take the "future production cards" out and simply tell me what's left for the plain vanilla IPv4 traffic.

As easy as that.

Everything else is marketing nonsense.
krispin 12/5/2012 | 3:27:24 PM
re: Cisco Pumps Up the Edge 400 gig per slot is based on EZchip's NP-4 processor due to sample in 2Q'09. It is a 100 gig processor so the advertised 400 gigs per slot would include 4 NPUs per line card.

The current line cards for the ASR 9000 are based on the NP-3c which is a 40gig processor.

Source: the above info comes from the research of Domino Analytics.
Bompa 12/5/2012 | 3:27:24 PM
re: Cisco Pumps Up the Edge Is the 5T promise as empty as the 92T CRS-1 promise 5 years ago? 5 years later they have 6T systems in the field. At that rate we'll get to 92T by , say, 2080
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