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Optical/IP Networks

Source: Cisco's HFR Tips the Scales

Networking equipment giant Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is building a router of colossal proportions, according to one source familiar with the product. The behemoth core routing platform supposedly links to up to 18 different chassis, weighs more than 1,300 pounds per chassis, and has a total system capacity of 11.5 Tbit/s.

Sound farfetched? It may well be. Light Reading couldn't independently verify our source's data, but those familiar with Cisco's plans -- analysts and other sources -- say the findings sound authentic based on their past meetings with carriers reviewing the product.

If true, these few details that have leaked out are significant, given that Cisco won't even publicly acknowledge that the product exists. Folks have speculated about Cisco's Huge Fast Router (HFR) for years. Most recently, some were expecting its debut at Supercomm 2003, then again at the International Telecommunication Union's ITU Telecom tradeshow in Geneva.

"We know it’s out there," says Stephen Kamman, an analyst with CIBC World Markets. "Everyone’s just waiting for Cisco to tell us what we already know."

Several analysts say the product is in trials with at least six carriers, two of which are believed to be AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON), and at least one major regional Bell operator.

The long-awaited router is interesting, in part, because Cisco has spent an exorbitant amount of time and money developing the beast, sources say. For example, the company has built an entirely new operating system to run the thing.

Kevin Mitchell, an analyst with Infonetics Research Inc., says that most carriers are still only testing the software. Consequently, he doesn’t expect the product to be commercially deployed for at least another 12 months.

Here are some other details one Light Reading source was able to uncover after reviewing documents that Cisco itself circulated about its product:
  • Architecture
    The HFR router can be configured in one of three architectures: single core; dual core, interconnected with 1.2 Tbit/s parallel-optical-link (Paroli cables); or multicore, with two core chassis that interconnect up to 18 chassis.
  • Software
    As mentioned, Cisco has developed an entirely new operating system for the HFR. The command line interface looks a lot like Cisco's Internetwork Operating System (IOS), the software that runs most routers today. The IOS and the new operating system likely share a lot of the same code, but they are very different architecturally. Unlike IOS, the new OS is modular and runs different software packages that enable various large feature sets, such as management, MPLS, routing protocols, multicast, and security.
  • Capacity
    In aggregate, the backplane of the system scales up to 11.5 Tbit/s. There has also been mention of supporting OC768 (40-Gbit/s) connections as part of a planning consideration for the product.
  • Processors
    Routing protocols are still handled by one or two dedicated route processors in each chassis. For scaleability, an additional distributed route processor can be installed in any line-card slot. This processor is similar to Cisco's Distributed Cisco Express Forwarding (dCEF), deployed on its lower-end routing platforms. The Express Forwarding processor provides each interface with an identical on-card copy of the FIB (forward information base) database, enabling them to autonomously perform express forwarding. The only difference with the distributed route processors on the HFR is that there is not a fixed 1:1 relationship between the line card and the forwarding table.
  • Virtual Routing
    Each slot in an HFR chassis can be assigned different virtual routers or logical routers. These logical routers can be separately rebooted, and each has its own configuration. But because each chassis is only given two route processors, virtualized scaleability is fairly limited.
  • Line-Card Flexibility
    In the line cards, the physical connection and optics have been separated from the routing functionality. As a result, the routing functionality can be mated with more than one type of physical optical connection -- so you could swap an OC12 for a Gigabit Ethernet card simply by changing the physical layer interface module.
  • Weight
    If you thought the TSR from Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7) had a weight problem, get a load of the HFR (see Avici Battles Weight Problem ). One chassis is 1,350 lbs. -- about as much as a very large moose -- and gobbles 12 kilowatts of power.
Specifics about line-card densities on individual HFR chassis aren't known yet, but its scaleability recalls the Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) T640 core chassis, which was introduced in 2002 (see Juniper Goes Terabit With the T640). At the time, Juniper outlined details of a new optical core it called the TX, which could be used to link together up to eight T640's. Cisco's scaleable router, deployed in a dual-core configuration, can supposedly link together up to 18 different chassis. Even though Juniper has introduced the concept of the TX, it hasn't formally launched the product, nor has it announced any customers that are using it.

"Considering that Juniper hasn’t released the TX core connection for the T640, it's really a matter of just comparing PowerPoint [presentations]," says Infonetics' Mitchell.

Avici is the only vendor that has a working multichassis implementation. The company announced in the second quarter of this year that AT&T had hooked two of its TSR routers together.

Cisco did not respond to requests for comment on this article. — Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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cyber_techy 12/4/2012 | 11:10:46 PM
re: Source: Cisco's HFR Tips the Scales Here's the translation of the article (courtesy of babelfish)

The leaders of this great hope of the sector of information technologies in Quebec do not see more than one also evil eye their purchase, possibly by a large player of telecommunications.

"This reversal is due to one year of economic realism, affirms Richard Norman, president d' Hyperchip. Moreover, examples in industry show us that it is possible to be bought and nevertheless to continue the work which one carried out front."
Pierre 12/4/2012 | 11:10:47 PM
re: Source: Cisco's HFR Tips the Scales The word on the street is that, while they have put out the lure, no one has bitten. They have nearly exhausted their cash reserves, and most employees expect another "Mystery Letter" to be mailed to their homes. Any hard information on whether they will get past Christmas? Q1 2004? Is the PBR-1280 in anyone's hands yet??
TheVoice 12/4/2012 | 11:15:12 PM
re: Source: Cisco's HFR Tips the Scales From LesAffaires.com article

Who could be interested?

(translated from French)
-Alcatel gave up its Next-Gen router development.
-Lucent, Ericsson and Siemens are quite happy with their Juniper Networks sales partnerships.
-Nortel is not interested into that market. Maybe
-Juniper who remains alone with its own router ( T-640), and
-Cisco Systems who’s working on its own Next-Gen router (rumor)
cowboy_carl 12/4/2012 | 11:15:14 PM
re: Source: Cisco's HFR Tips the Scales A local business newspaper reported today "Hyperchip ready to consider acquisition offers" (translated from French).

See http://www.lesaffaires.com/fr/...
dwdm2 12/4/2012 | 11:16:16 PM
re: Source: Cisco's HFR Tips the Scales "Obviously you have not worked in optical networking for a long time..."

Thats right, and I don't know anyone been in this area long. Heys things started in the late 80s and commercial systems became available in the mid 90s. In fact "optical networking" is yet to come to fruition...

This is another aspect of anonymity, you can claim anything and more often than not people will buy them too.

Cheers
vrparente 12/4/2012 | 11:16:18 PM
re: Source: Cisco's HFR Tips the Scales Mark,

Thanks for the reference to Meyer's site. Very interesting stuff. I'll be reading it for some time. Thanks again.

-Victor Blake
itisi 12/4/2012 | 11:16:20 PM
re: Source: Cisco's HFR Tips the Scales I'm actually Brittany Spears. I didn't think my fans would understand. But my love for Boxes with Big BW leads me to out myself....

BS
mdwdm 12/4/2012 | 11:16:20 PM
re: Source: Cisco's HFR Tips the Scales "I thought you are for gigabit ethernet alliance..."

Obviously you have not worked in optical networking for a long time...
dwdm2 12/4/2012 | 11:16:20 PM
re: Source: Cisco's HFR Tips the Scales I thought you are for gigabit ethernet alliance...
gea 12/4/2012 | 11:16:21 PM
re: Source: Cisco's HFR Tips the Scales Well, I haven't seen some of the obvious statements here.

Let's say I piss off someone so much they decide to hunt me down. I don't like the assymetry that would be involved if they knew who I was (if I was fully non-anonymous) and they were completely anonymous.

As it stands I use my initials, so people who've been in the optical networking industry a long time know exactly who I am and will call me up after some of my posts. So call it quasi-anonymous.
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