Cisco Unveils Next-Gen High-End Router

Four years in the making, the Cisco CRS-1 Carrier Routing System is not an evolution or extension of the networking vendor's existing router line but rather a new offering built from scratch to provide the scalability and always-on capabilities service providers require, said John Chambers, Cisco's president and CEO, during a Webcast of the product launch event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

"Today is an example of what we think is the biggest jump we've ever taken in innovation since the router was introduced 20 years ago," Chambers said.

The CRS-1 router delivers up to 92 Tbits of data per second, a capacity increase of 100-fold over current offerings, as well as four times the speed, he said.

The new product has no immediate impact on solution providers, as Cisco channel partners do not typically handle the vendor's high-end routers. However, the new technology will in the long run form the foundation for future enterprise and SMB product announcements that will impact the channel.

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The new router incorporates new hardware and software underpinnings, including a new modular version of Cisco's Internetwork Operating Software (IOS), dubbed IOS XR, and the new Silicon Packet Processor, a 40-Gbps programmable ASIC jointly developed with IBM.

Cisco invested more than $500 million to develop the new architecture, Chambers said, pointing to the router launch as the first of series of new products scheduled for delivery over the next year.

"You will see more innovation from Cisco over the next 12 months by a factor of twofold than what you have seen in prior years," Chambers said.

In addition to significant capacity and speed increases, the router includes new features that improve availability, such as the ability to perform maintenance and upgrades without taking the system down. The new operating system also includes self-healing features that can automatically start, stop and upgrade processes without human intervention, said Mike Volpi, senior vice president and general manager of the routing technology group at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.

The new capabilities become increasingly important as carriers reach out to corporate and home users with new IP-based services such as VPNs, broadband and VoIP, Volpi said.

During the presentation, Cisco demonstrated a 40-Gbps intercity transmission over MCI's IP backbone made up of videoconferencing, music downloads, online gaming and on-demand video content delivery.

Cisco hopes the new product will help bolster its market-leading position in the high-end router market, where rival Juniper Networks has been gaining ground.

The CRS-1 is currently in field trials with several customers, including MCI and Sprint. It is scheduled for availability in July with a starting list price of $450,000.