Cisco overhauls Ethernet edge routers

Cisco ASR 9000 designed for 6.4Tbps, video and mobile backhaul

Cisco as expected this week ushered in the new era of its Carrier Ethernet routers with an edge system designed to scale to 6.4Tbps.

The ASR 9000 builds on the ASR series and QuantumFlow processor announced earlier this year. It cost $200 million and was in development for more than four years. The box runs Cisco's IOS-XR operating system with edge-specific enhancements, and is expected to succeed the company's eight-year-old and widely installed 7600 series systems.

ASR 9000 is designed for a subscriber and enterprise world of increasing video and mobile service use. According to Cisco, IP traffic over wireline and mobile networks will nearly double every two years until 2012, reaching 522 exabytes -- an exabyte is a billion gigabytes – or the equivalent of downloading 125 billion DVD movies per month.

Video will prompt consumer IP traffic to quadruple in that time, while mobile data will grow at a compounded annual rate of 125%, Cisco says. The scale of videro growth mandates 100+Gbps of bandwidth and video intelligence, the company says.

The ASR 9000 comes in six- and 10-slot configurations and Cisco says they support 400Gbps per slot. The 7600 is aimed squarely at Carrier Ethernet aggregation and mobile backhaul applications requiring up to 80Gbps per slot. (Compare access router products.)

Cisco did not discuss interface modules for the ASR 9000 chassis, and would not comment when asked if it would ship prestandard 40/100Gbps Ethernet line cards for them; but the routers will support integrated optical transponders, or Cisco's IP-over-dense-wavelength-division-multiplexing technology for increasing fiber capacity.

They will also support seamless mobile handoff capabilities with 3G/4G cell site routers, Cisco says.

At 6.4Tbps, Cisco says the ASR 9000 provide six times the capacity of competitive edge routers, which include Juniper's MX960, Alcatel-Lucent's 7750 and Ericsson's Redback SmartEdge. The routers also incorporates an Advanced Video Services Module (AVSM) designed to provide terabytes of streaming capacity while simultaneously offering content caching, ad insertion, fast channel change and error correction.

AVSM eliminates the need for standalone content delivery network elements, Cisco says. Errors can be retransmitted in milliseconds to a Cisco set-top box to maintain a transparent visual experience with no TV screen "freeze," the company says.

For energy efficiency, the six-slot ASR 9000 has a patent-pending side-to-back ventilation design to improve airflow, and help service providers free up side-by-side rack space. It can also hold a many as six modular power blocks to let users consume only as much power as they need.

Compared with a similar Juniper system, a 6.4Tbps ASR 9000 can save the carbon equivalent of 88 tons of coal, 164 transpacific passenger flights or 16 around-the-world car trips per year, Cisco says.

The Cisco ASR 9000 is in trial with service provider Softbank in Japan, and with Tier 1 service providers based in the North America and Europe regions. It will be available in the first quarter of 2009.

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