Big Routers Continue to Grow

As Internet usage continues to grow, so too does the need for the big core routers that power bandwidth growth. For networking giant Cisco, core routing comes in the form of its Huge Fast Router (HFR), the CRS-1 (Carrier Routing System) that debuted five years ago with 1.2 Tbps of throughput capacity.

Rival vendor, Juniper Network (NASDAQ:JNPR) has its own flagship core router, the T1600 which has 1.6 Tbps of throughput.

As the CRS-1 turns five this week, Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) is touting the fact it has shipped more than 3,200 units to more than 300 customers in more than 40 countries. Considering that the CRS-1 (depending on configuration) ranges in price from $500,000 to $1 million per router, Cisco’s CRS-1 numbers are no small feat, in terms of revenues and deployments.

The growth of the big routing platforms comes as the service providers continue to face budget and bandwidth pressures on their networks. It’s a far cry from what the market was saying in 2004 when the CRS-1 first came out.

“When we debuted the CRS-1 in 2004, there were a number of skeptics that thought that due to the immense power of the platform that no more than 50 units and no more than 5 customers would ever buy the unit,” Doug Webster senior director of service provider marketing at Cisco told InternetNews.com. “Fast forward five years and we’ve been able to sell far more. In fact, there have been some weeks where we’ve shipped more than 50 units in a week.”

For Juniper’s T1600, adoption and growth has also been respectable. Juniper’s Luc Ceuppens, vice president of product marketing in the high-end systems business unit, told InternetNews.com that 425 T1600’s were sold in the first year of availability.

The need for the big routers from Juniper and Cisco is being driven by big needs from their service provider customers.

“The network itself has increased dramatically over the last five years with a more than eight times increase in traffic volumes,” Cisco’s Webster said. “The network today is different than it was five years ago and it will be different five years from now. But the CRS-1 is a platform we invested over a half billion [dollars] to create and over 800,000 hours of engineering time.”

Webster added that the market has proved that there is a need for the capacity that a CRS-1 provides. Demand for mobility is also helping to drive demand for increased capacity in the network core. Webster noted that 3G/4G wireless services need a backbone transport and as carriers scale up their wireless deployments they need to scale up their core capacity as well.

Next page: Continued growth.

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Over the last five years, the CRS-1 has not stood still either and has been improved by Cisco in a number of ways. In 2008, Cisco expanded the optical networking capabilities of the CRS-1 with improved IPoDWDM (Internet Protocol over Dense Wavelength-Division Multiplexing) capabilities to transport 40Gbps of IP traffic over 2,000 kilometers.

Recently, Cisco expanded the CRS-1 capabilities to integrate with their Unified Computing System in a service called the ‘Unified Service Delivery’ system. Webster explained that the CRS-1 is now moving into the datacenter network space and is really helping to tie datacenter into the network as a whole.

“In the past, datacenters were looked at as their own entity,” Webster said. “But to get max effectiveness of datacenters you can use the network to interconnect them and not silo resources. That’s recognizing the vision of the network as platform and the CRS-1 is a key part of that.”

Juniper’s competition

Webster did not specifically call out Juniper as the primary competitor for the CRS-1, though Juniper on the other hand does see the CRS-1 as its primary competitive target for the T1600.

Juniper’s Ceuppens said that most of the time the competition is the CRS-1, since in his view the T1600 and the CRS-1 are the only two core routers have 1 Tbps or more of backplane throughput capacity.

Though Cisco and Juniper have competing platforms, that doesn’t necessarily mean that vendors are doing ‘bake-offs’ between the two products.

Cueppens said that he doesn’t often see bake-offs in a lab but it’s rather a question of functionality, software, stability and pricing. As well he added that many service providers may well often buy from both vendors.

“Most service providers have a dual-vendor strategy for core network equipment,” Cueppens said. “There are a few that are single-vendor.”

The economy is an issue that may well be limiting adoption of the big core routers somewhat, though carriers in the final analysis may have no choice but to upgrade their networks.

“Some providers are running networks hotter, putting more traffic on their networks,” Cueppens said. “But ultimately the way we see traffic growing at between 50 and 70 percent per year, capacity needs to be added.”

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