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Cisco Unleashes Big Routers For Video

As traffic demands grow, so grow the products to deliver more bandwidth.

Enter Cisco, which is rolling out a new high end Aggregation Services Router (ASR) that can deliver a whopping 6.4 Terabits per second of total service capacity.

The Cisco ASR 9000 has a specific module for video delivery optimization and can be integrated with cellular network site routers in order to deliver a nifty wireless experience to mobile end users. The new ASR is part of Cisco's overall effort to help operators meet demand while consolidating equipment into more dense platforms.

"The capacity is a major aspect to help alleviate network bottlenecks," Doug Webster, senior director of service provider marketing at Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), told InternetNews.com.

"For comparison, the Cisco ASR 9000 has enough capacity to provide a high definition video stream to every household in Los Angeles at once. So it's got a serious amount of firepower, but it's also balanced with intelligence."

The release comes as Cisco is facing down growing competition from Juniper Networks and its T-1600 offering. The Juniper product is a key player in the battle for carrier share between Juniper and Cisco.

But there appears to be plenty of bandwidth needs to go around.

"People are feeling the demand. When we talk to customers they tell us that traffic today is already taxing their networks," Webster said. "Because they already have familiarity with this operating system and with Cisco, we don't think this will take that much time for adoption to happen."

The ASR 9000 is the second major release for Cisco's ASR product line, which debuted earlier this year with the ASR 1000. At the time Cisco CEO John Chambers claimed the platform cost $250 million to develop, of which $100 million was for the Quantum Flow processor that powers the platform.

Webster noted that the Quantum Flow processor in the ASR 9000 is part of the same family as the one that powers the ASR 1000. He added that the processor gives Cisco the ability to not only handle the capacity but also have a great amount of service intelligence.

The QuantumFlow is a 40 core processor that can run more than 48 billion instructions per second. The processor itself is programmable such that it can be used to optimize the services that the underlying hardware is running.

Video delivery is a key service that Cisco is targeted with the ASR 9000. Webster argued that video delivery requires high bandwidth, low latency and error correction to ensure video quality.

"In the ASR 9000 we have an optimized packet flow such that we have a dedicated and integrated service module for video," Brendan Gibbs, senior director of product marketing, told InternetNews.com.

Officially called the Cisco Advanced Video Services Module (AVSM), it's a dedicated part of the ASR 9000 for optimizing video delivery content caching, ad insertion, fast channel change, and error correction. Webster argued that with an ASR 9000 video and other content can be cached at the edge of the network. What Cisco claims that provides is an overall faster response time for access.

Webster noted that demand for content by wireless devices is growing because of the growth of video over smartphones such as Apple's iPhone or even laptop computers. That helps explain why the ASR 9000 is deploying a technology called SyncE, which enables a seamless handoff to cell site routers.

With the release, Cisco is also leveraging the same IOS-XR operating system that powers its CRS-1 core router. Gibbs noted that having IOS-XR run both platforms is a key part of Cisco's strategy to make the ASR-9000 more attractive to carriers. Gibbs claimed that carriers are already familiar with IOS-XR. This makes their learning curve less steep.

"Whenever we come out with a new platform, there is going to be an education curve," Webster commented. "When we introduced the CRS-1 four years that was a whole new system; the idea of a core system and that took a little while and pundits thought it was overkill."