Chasing down a mystery: Some say the ASR 9000 won't be 6.4Tbps capable until 2010

There has been a heated debate as a result of this Network World story which

asks the question of exactly how is it that Cisco claims the ASR 9000 can achieve 6.4Tbps of bandwidth with 400Gbps per slot. The folks at Seeking Alpha say they've figured it out and if they are right, that speed likely won't be available in the ASR 9000 until 2010. They write:

"We think we know what the answer might be and it is EZchip Semiconductor. EZchip develops network processors for carrier Ethernet equipment and counts among its earliest customers 'two of the three largest CESR vendors.' ... we have come to learn through our independent research efforts that EZchip’s NP-3c processor is being used in the initial line cards for the ASR 9000 and EZchip’s 100 gig NP-4 processors are likely to be included in future line cards for this product. So in one sense the skeptics are right: the pro forma capacity and functionality of the ASR 9000 will not be available in 1Q 2009 when the product begins shipping, but rather this functionality will be available when the NP-4 based line cards are available which we estimate will be in 2010."

The Seeking Alpha article speculates that Cisco is keeping mum on the technology and the supplier because it has put itself in a delicate position by relying on a third-party manufacturer for such a core piece of the ASR 9000. While Cisco uses third-party chip makers in numerous other ways and other products, in this case, Cisco may have opted not to go with a custom ASIC in order to use the more flexible, programmable processor that EZchip supplies. And that means that this chip could wind up being central to its competitors' next generation CESR gear as well. If that's the case, Cisco wouldn't exactly want to broadcast information about its supplier.

But EZchip is already a public company (trading under the symbol EZCH) and if it has snagged Cisco as a customer (and the ASR 9000) Wall Street, and the rest of the world will need to know. Hopefully Cisco will voluntarily clarify the ASR 9000's 6.4Tbps/ 400Gbps technology and timeline by the time it has made the product available for customers to purchase.

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