Monday, November 17, 2008

Cisco's New Terabit Monster Router

Cisco's new edge router, the ASR 9000, is upping the ante on network bandwidth. This beast will deliver 6.4 Tbps when fully loaded at 400 Gbps per slot. Who needs a router this powerful? Probably not your mom and pop retail store. But they might be using services downstream from a carrier who has installed an ASR 9000. Why the need for even more speed? One word: Video.

Video not only killed the radio star, it's pretty much killing service providers too. The Internet was conceived and built in an era when text was king. As technology and applications evolved, it managed to scale up with the move to more visual Web pages. But video is taxing the ability of service providers to add bandwidth as fast as users glomp onto more and more video content. It's YouTube, certainly. But it's also Web pages that embed video reports instead of text, and TV producers that see the Internet as another medium for distributing their programs.

So bad has it gotten, that major ISPs have taken to impose download limits on what was once unlimited broadband. They're easing into this by setting the cutoff point high enough so that only rabid video downloaders are likely to get kicked off the network. But today's rabid downloaders are merely early adopters of the way we'll all want our content delivered eventually. It's going to be high definition large screen full length video at will. Once this genie gets completely out of the bottle, satellite and cable are going to have to scramble to avoid becoming as limited as over-the-air TV channels when it comes to program delivery. If we had the set top boxes, programming guides and motivated content producers today, the Internet would be brought to its knees overnight.

That's what Cisco is trying to address with the ASR 9000. What might appear to be overkill for many edge router applications is going to be a normal requirement sooner than we think. In fact, the ASR 9000 is targeted at video service providers, such as cable companies, and also at mobile providers. These include cell phone companies that are starting to push mobile video and likely WiMAX operators who will be dealing with video-craving users sooner than they may think.

The other trend that Cisco is positioning for is the move from legacy time division network technology to Ethernet and MPLS. The ASR9000 has built-in capabilities for IPoDWDM or IP over Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing as a next-generation network core technology.

You don't really need Terabit transport requirements to take advantage of Ethernet and MPLS in your business. Metro Ethernet offers cost savings over traditional DS3 bandwidth and can often be provisioned over copper pair rather than fiber optic cable for bandwidths below 50 Mbps. MPLS networks are fast becoming the preferred method to interconnect multiple business locations.

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