Cisco's HFR is here

Cisco unveils 92T bit/sec CRS-1 system, software

Cisco this week put all speculation and anticipation to rest by unveiling the core router it's been developing for more than two years: the CRS-1, better known in the industry as "HFR."

A single CRS-1 system supports 1.2T bit/sec of bandwidth, according to Cisco. Each slot is capable of 40G bit/sec, and Cisco plans to deliver full-capacity single-port OC-768c, four-port OC-192c, four- and eight-port 10G bit/sec Ethernet and 16-port OC-48c interface modules when the router ships in mid-July.

The entry-level base price for the CRS-1 is $450,000.

Cisco expects to be taking revenue for the new router in its first quarter of fiscal 2005, which begins in August. Beta testers for the router include Sprint and Deutsche Telekom, Cisco officials say; MCI and NTT are also trialing the system.

In an exclusive demonstration for Network World, MCI showed what it and Cisco claimed was the first 40G bit/sec IP transmission. In an MCI point of presence in downtown San Francisco, the CRS-1 appeared to maintain line-rate forwarding of Fibre Channel IP packets over an OC-768c link to an MCI POP in San Jose - a distance of 104 km - even though the link was being saturated with packets from an Agilient tester.

Only packets from the tester were dropped while the Fibre Channel IP packets were forwarded without disruption, the companies claimed. The demo was conducted over MCI's existing fiber plant, which supports 10G bit/sec wavelengths - the 40G bit/sec Fibre Channel data streams were modulated down to a 10G bit/sec spectrum using StrataLight OTS-4000 Optical Terminal Subsystem.

"This is the first instance of IP networking on a 40G bit/sec wavelength," said Jack Wimmer, MCI vice-president for Network Architecture and Advanced Technology. "I think this is history-making as far as the industry is concerned."

The CRS-1 doesn't stop there, however. Up to 72 CRS-1 chassis can be interconnected into a single 92T bit/sec router, Cisco claims, through the linkage of eight optical interconnects that attach to the routers via a dedicated, non-customer-facing port.

With this scale, Cisco hopes to one-up rival Juniper Networks, which is ready to roll out the TX interconnect for its two-year-old T-640 routers whenever customers feel the need for it, says Juniper Founder and CTO Pradeep Sindhu. TX is a switching matrix that Juniper says can link eight or more T640s to achieve at least 5T bit/sec of non-blocking throughput. 

Sindhu admits, however, that multiple TX matrices cannot be interconnected to achieve even greater scale. But so what, he says.

"Scalability and line rate (performance) are yesterday's problems," Sindhu says. "It's not sufficient to just build big, bad routers and solve the problem with bandwidth. It's taken (Cisco) a long time to get to feature parity compared to where Juniper is."

Cisco's optical interconnect is still in trial but Cisco officials say they can have it out by year-end.

CRS-1 will also feature a new, modular operating system designed specifically for carrier core routing applications. The IOS-XR operating system will feature a microkernel with POSIX APIs and a messaging layer to support separately partitioned applications, services and protocol operations to reduce or eliminate planned and unplanned outages, Cisco says.

The IOS-XR operating system kernel was acquired from QNX Software Systems, a small Canadian developer of realtime operating system code to companies in the automotive, communications, defense, industrial automation and medical device markets. Cisco already ships QNX operating system code in its uMG9850 QAM digital video module for the Catalyst 4500 Gigabit Ethernet switch.

Other QNX customers include British Telecom (BT), Lockheed Martin, Motorola, Siemens, Ford Motors and Texaco.

Cisco developed the 40G bit/sec network processors - called the Silicon Packet Processors - for the system, which feature 188 CPUs on a chip, each individually programmable. Cisco says this eliminates the need to install new line cards to support new features.

Taken altogether, analysts believe the CRS-1 will help Cisco reverse a 9% drop in market share since the second quarter of 2002. All and more of that went to Juniper, which notched a 10% share gain over that period.

"We believe this product will better position Cisco in the high-end core router market," states UBS Warburg Analyst Nikos Theodosopoulos in a bulletin on the product launch. "Juniper 'leapfrogged' Cisco with its T-640 router. We believe Cisco is now aiming to leapfrog the competition with first-to-market 40 Gb/s interfaces (and) 99.999% of reliability."

This story, "Cisco's HFR is here" was originally published by The Edge.

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