New Cisco Core Router Offers Capacity to Handle Video Surge

John Chambers, chairman & CEO, Cisco Systems

John Chambers, chairman & CEO, Cisco Systems

March 9, 2010 – How much bigger can it get? That's one response to the latest member of Cisco's Carrier Routing System (CRS) platform, but it's also the question that led to the product in the first place.

The CRS-3 supports up to 322 terabits per second, which is triple the capacity of its predecessor, the CRS-1, and 12 times the capacity of rival core routers. That's enough for every adult and child in China to make a video call simultaneously, or to deliver every movie ever made in four minutes, Cisco said during a March 9 Webcast announcing the product.

Cisco didn't pick those two examples out of a hat. The company is pitching the CRS-3 largely as a way for service providers to accommodate the crush of video, ranging from Internet TV services to mobile TV to enterprise telepresence.

"Video is the killer app," said Cisco chairman and CEO John Chambers.

The CRS-3 is Cisco's latest bet on video, following acquisitions in 2009 of Pure Digital Technologies, a maker of consumer camcorders, and Tandberg, a videoconferencing and telepresence vendor. Cisco said it has spent $1.6 billion so far developing the CRS family.

AT&T used the CRS-3 in its recent 100 gigabit-per-second backbone trial, which is aimed at picking technologies to support wireline, wireless, consumer and enterprise. AT&T says its current IP/MPLS network carries 19 Petabytes of traffic per day, a volume that's doubled over the past three years.

"Our growth overall is in the 40-60 percent range on our common backbone, but video is growing at about 80 percent," Keith Cambron, president and CEO of AT&T Labs, said during the Webcast. "We need 100 Gigabit technology. We need that put in production over the next few years."

The CRS-3 currently is in trials with other operators that Cisco didn't name. Priced at $90,000, the CRS-3 will be commercially available this fall.

The CRS-1 isn't going away anytime soon, however. Cisco said the CSR-1's chassis, route processors and other hardware can be upgraded with line cards and fabric to deliver CSR-3 levels of performance. That strategy means Cisco has a better shot at upselling owners of the nearly 5,000 CRS-1s in commercial use than if it simply started phasing out the older platform.

Another potential pot-sweetener is what Cisco described as "dramatic" opex savings and up to 60 percent lower power consumption compared to rival platforms.