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Managing Editor

HFR: Not very far

Apr 21, 20043 mins
Cisco SystemsSystem Management

New high-end Cisco core router designed to one-up Juniper

Cisco will soon end the speculation around its next-generation Internet core router when it unveils the so-called “HFR” system at or before SuperComm in June.

Cisco will soon end the speculation around its next-generation Internet core router when it unveils the so-called “HFR” system at or before SuperComm in June.

In an exclusive interview with Network World, Cisco Senior Vice President Mike Volpi confirmed that a new platform running 40G bit/sec OC-768c interfaces and a modular operating system will be at SuperComm.

The single-port OC-768c modules makes Cisco perhaps the first to unveil the new high-speed interfaces on a core router. Currently, Cisco has dual-port 20G bit/sec OC-192c blades for its “40G bit/sec per slot capable” 12816 router, Cisco’s high-end offering until HFR debuts.

For Cisco, the stakes are high behind the HFR system. The company’s market share slipped in the fourth quarter of 2003, from 66% to 62%, while rival Juniper’s rose 3% to 31%, according to Dell’Oro Group.

Juniper has been selling its 640G bit/sec T640 router for about two years.

Cisco has also lost out on some big contracts during the past year, including the core router piece of the huge Global Information Grid – Bandwidth Expansion (GIG-BE) network being built by the U.S. Department of Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).

DISA awarded that project to Juniper.

Cisco also wants to make a big splash around its routing innovations this year – its 20th anniversary. As a pioneer in commercial routing, it’s incumbent upon the company to appear to have the most sophisticated platform on the market as it reviews its heritage from a two-person Stanford-born start-up to the $20 billion behemoth it is today.

The market for core routing is also heating up after languishing during the Internet/telecom bubble. Dell’Oro expects the market to grow 31% this year, up from 22% in 2003. In 2002, the market for core and edge routers plummeted 35%, according to Synergy Research.

Details on the HFR’s design are unclear, but a single-rack, 16-slot router is expected to support at least 640G bit/sec of system capacity, scalable to multiterabits via the interconnection of multiple chassis. Juniper announced the TX, a multichassis interconnect for its T640s, and is expected to soon disclose trial customers for the product. Avici Systems, the No. 3 core router vendor behind Cisco and Juniper, also supports multichassis scale on its TSR system.

The modular, or partitioned, HFR operating system is intended to keep routing protocols, system services and security features in separate “compartments” so a failure, defect or restart in one compartment does not bring down the entire router. This separation will make the operating system more reliable by reducing downtime due to bug fixes, feature additions, upgrades or unplanned events.

Operating system modularity is a feature that Juniper and start-up Procket Networks, among others, say they are already offering.

Managing Editor

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 28 years, 23 at Network World. He covers enterprise networking infrastructure, including routers and switches. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy and at

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