Cisco has unveiled rolled a top-of-the-line router, the Carrier Routing System (CRS-1), which is designed with scalability and in-service upgradability to last at least 10 years, according to Cisco.
"Once we put it in place, we don't want to move it for one to two decades," said John Chambers, Cisco president and chief executive.
A single CRS-1 rack with 16 slots can process 1.2Tbps of traffic, but the system as a whole can grow far beyond that, to 72 network-interface racks and eight special chassis to interconnect those boxes into one virtual system.
Speed is a big selling point of the new system, including its 40Gbps wide area network interfaces, which Cisco demonstrated with MCI by sending high-definition video over one such link while simulating thousands of simultaneous gaming, music downloading, video-on-demand, web browsing and video phone call sessions.
Future bandwidth needs were on the minds of carriers which participated in the event to test the new platform. Sprint sees its steepest growth curves in wireless mobile services and in IP telephony services that it provides to cable companies, said Kathy Walker, executive vice-president of network services at the carrier.
MCI, for example, sees its corporate Multiprotocol Label Switching Virtual Private Network (MPLS VPN) service boosting its bandwidth use across many parts of the world, and peer-to-peer file sharing is quickly gobbling up more capacity at Japan's NTT Communications.
Wolfgang Schmitz, senior executive vice-president and head of technology at Deutsche Telekom's T-Com wired network unit, said streaming multimedia services will drive the need for bigger routers.
However, reliability is an even bigger priority, one that Cisco's new system is designed to meet through a modular design that allows for adding new capacity and customer services without taking the router out of service, said Cisco senior vice-president and general manager Mike Volpi.
To build a router that combines the stability of a traditional, long-lasting telecommunications switch with the performance of a data switch, Cisco had to bridge two worlds, Volpi said.
"Historically, our industry has taken a very PC-centric approach to building devices," Volpi said. "Every two or three years you would design a new one, with the idea that you would take the old one out of service and put the new one in." About four years ago, Cisco decided it had to bring in some lessons from the carrier equipment industry.
"Marrying the two was very challenging," Volpi said.
The CRS-1 also will eventually be able to do the work of several kinds of routers by running "virtual routers," a feature MCI vice-president of network architecture and advanced technology Jack Wimmer said could save the carrier money and make its network easier to manage.
Stephen Lawson writes IDG News Service