Cisco ups Carrier Ethernet ante with Tbit edge router

Cisco Systems has upped the ante in the Carrier Ethernet vendor wars with a new addition to its aggregation services router (ASR) series that promises terabits of capacity at the network edge - and already has Japan's Softbank as a customer.

The ASR 9000, which is widely seen by industry pundits as Cisco's successor to its 7600 edge router, comes in six- or ten-slot configurations, with each slot supporting up to 400 Gbps, scaling up to a possible 6.4 Tbps, making it not only the largest edge router on offer, but also larger than Cisco's CRS-1 core router.

It also comes with an integrated IP-over-DWDM component, allowing telcos to extend IP direct over optical wavelengths into the edge without the cost of an extra optical component, says Sharat Sinha, Cisco's director of "¨service provider business for the Asia Pacific region.

Cisco says the router, available in Q1 2009, is designed to cope with upcoming heavy IP traffic loads (think exabytes and zettabytes by 2012) in networks, driven largely by video, Web 2.0 and business collaboration apps, which is already putting edge networks under pressure, especially in terms of mobile backhaul as 3.5G services start ramping up.

However, says Sinha, the real attraction of the ASR 9000 isn't raw, scalable capacity so much as its ability to better manage subscribers and services.

The router runs on Cisco's IOS-XR software (which runs the CRS-1 but not the ASR1000) and QuantumFlow ASIC, the latter of which offers subscriber management features and silicon-based security and video, making it a less power-hungry and more efficient router, Sinha added.

Other features of the ASR 9000 include optimized video support via a content delivery blade, powered by its 2006 Arroyo Video Solutions acquisition, that sports features such as content caching, ad insertion fast channel change and error correction.

'You can do your content caching at the local level, which not only improves video performance and help service providers meet their SLAs, but also helps save on international bandwidth costs,' Sinha said.

Cisco is also promoting the router's green cred, as it is designed for 'as needed' modular power consumption and a side-to-back ventilation scheme that could save the equivalent of 88 tons of coal a year.

The ASR 9000 also comes with a lower TCO pitch - partly from the usual Carrier Ethernet aggregation benefits of a simpler, cheaper packet-based edge network running numerous services, but also from integrating functions like IPoDWDM, CDN and SyncE (which allows seamless mobile handoff between cell site routers in mobile backhaul deployments), as well as its lower power consumption, all of which translate into lower capex and opex for service providers, says Sinha.

'This is crucial because service providers all face the problem of seeing their traffic outgrowing their ARPU at a tremendous rate,' he said. 'It's important to help them lower their capex and opex costs, and to help enable new services so they can make money, whether it's video services or even a mobile backhaul wholesale service.'

A number of telcos are trialling the ASR 9000, Cisco says, but Softbank is the first to go public.

The Japanese mobile operator didn't give details on how it plans to deploy the router, but Junishi Miyakawa, Softbank Mobile's EVP, director and CTO, said in a statement that earlier generations of edge routers 'were not designed to address the massive growth that IP video is driving across mobile and wireline networks'.

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