Cisco Debuts High-End Router For Telecom Market

May 25, 2004 (01:05 PM EDT)

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Cisco Systems staked its biggest claim yet to become a force in the telecommunications market Tuesday when it unveiled its eagerly anticipated carrier-class router in a splashy Silicon Valley launch. Cisco execs left no doubt that the company views its Carrier Routing System, referred to as CRS-1, as its new flagship product.

"I'm not talking about an evolution of existing routing," CEO John Chambers told a packed auditorium at the Computer Science Museum in Mountain View, Calif. "I'm talking about a whole new generation." Chambers said the new technology--which the company touts as capable of scaling to process up to 92 terabits per second of video, voice, and data traffic, sufficient to transfer the entire contents of the Library of Congress in less than 5 seconds--features 100 times the capacity and four times the speed of Cisco's existing router offerings. The CRS-1 is designed to have a shelf life of up to 20 years, supported by in-service hardware and software upgrades.

Cisco wowed those on hand for the launch event by demonstrating the router's ability to handle awesome amounts of traffic. With a four-router beta network set up to move data between the museum and MCI facilities in San Jose and San Francisco at speeds of 40 Gbps, Cisco simulated 2,500 video-over-IP streams, 2,500 video-over-IP conferencing connections, 125,000 online gamers playing simultaneously, 4,000 concurrent music downloads, and 1 million Web browsers, all of which ran without glitch for several minutes. The point was to illustrate how the CRS-1 will let telecom companies establish converged networks that will support the ever-expanding demands of its customers to consume voice, video, and data services over wired and wireless devices.

Cisco execs declined to estimate what demand for the CRS-1 might be, citing original internal estimates that worldwide demand for the company's 12000-series high-end router line, released in 1997, would be no more than 1,000 units. The 12000-series has sold 25,000 units to date. "We only missed that by 2,500%," joked Chambers.

Sprint already has a single-chassis beta of the CRS-1 running in its San Jose data center, and during a panel discussion with four of Cisco's telecom customers, Kathy Walker, executive VP of network services, said the company has expressed an intent to purchase an unspecified number of the closet-sized machines. Walker said one of the biggest drivers of demand for network capacity is the growing adoption of wireless data services, particularly among business customers. Meanwhile, MCI is seeing a fast-growing appetite for all forms of data, images, video and voice. "What we're looking for is to be able to help our client base create, store, deliver and manipulate digital media," said Jonathan Crane, executive VP and chief strategy officer.

Meanwhile, a third customer said products like the CRS-1 would create demand where it doesn't currently exist. "As soon as you provide bandwidth to customers, applications will rise to eat it up," said Wolfgang Schmitz, senior executive VP of T-Com, Deutche Telecom's residential and small business unit.

Chambers said more breakthroughs will follow, promising twice as much innovation over the next 12 months as Cisco has ever delivered. Among the possible near-term innovations, VP and chief development officer Mario Mazzola told InformationWeek, is a smaller version of the CRS-1 for smaller telcos that could hit the market by year's end, followed by additional adaptations of the technology for large companies. "Multiple elements of this technology will quickly be applied to the context of the enterprise," Mazzola said.