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New blade for Cisco CRS-3 core router adds packet transport capability

Offering takes on stand-alone packet transport switch from rival Juniper

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[Editor: This story was updated....see below]

Like its rival Juniper Networks, Cisco Systems has recognized that much of the traffic flowing through core service provider networks does not need to be carried on a full blown router. But rather than launching a new product to address that need as Juniper did, Cisco has announced a new blade for its CRS-3 core router, which was launched about one year ago (CP: Cisco debuts CS-3 Router).

The new blade supports packet transport, a form of label switching suitable for point-to-point connections--a capability similar to what Juniper provides on its PTX packet transport switch launched earlier this year (CP: Juniper aims to power, simplify network core).

As Stephen Liu, Cisco senior manager of service provider marketing for routing and switching solutions, explained in an interview with Connected Planet, next-generation networks can use any of four basic levels of connectivity in the core. The most basic of these is wavelength division multiplexing. Somewhat more sophisticated is optical transport networking, a more granular form of WDM that enables multiple services to be carried on the same wavelength using sub-lambda switching.

Packet transport falls between OTN and a full-blown router in terms of sophistication, Liu said. Like OTN it is a point-to-point solution and it builds upon optical delivery mechanisms, but unlike OTN, it takes advantage of packet-based transport and supports statistical multiplexing, said Liu. A full-blown router is the most sophisticated solution because it brings multipoint capability to the mix.

One important advantage of implementing packet transport on a router, Liu said, is that if a customer initially is provisioned for a point-to-point service using packet transport but later requires multipoint connectivity, the upgrade can be made more quickly and easily because the customer does not need to be moved to a separate platform.

“The applications that are growing the fastest are multipoint--and they have the highest margins,” Liu said.

Both the CRS-3 and Juniper’s T1600 core router can support speeds as great as 100 Gb/s (CP: Nokia Siemens, Juniper test 100G OTN router links). But only Cisco’s offering supports an industry-standard approach to 100 Gig E, said Liu.

“Juniper’s implementation is two-by-50,” Liu said. Juniper uses two serial data streams that create non-standard sequencing and reconstruction requirements, he said.

Cisco is also touting the rapid adoption of the CRS-3. In just one year, the company said, the product has been adopted by 80 customers in 30 countries. The company may have felt compelled to tout successes such as these in response to financial industry concerns about the company’s ability to maintain strong performance in the diverse business lines it has embarked upon. (CP: Cisco faces pressure to jilt consumers, home in on enterprise).

UPDATE

Juniper Networks disputed Cisco’s claim that Juniper’s approach to delivering 100 Gb/s communications is non-standard.

“It is two-by-50 but that doesn’t mean it’s not industry-compliant,” said Juniper Vice President of Product Marketing Luc Ceuppens, in an interview. “It is IEEE-compliant and we have interoperated with Cisco’s CRS-3 among others.”

Juniper’s packet forwarding engine consists of two forwarding engines, each supporting 50 Gb/s—an approach that enabled the company to implement 100 Gb/s as a blade on its T1600 router, which has a processing engine that runs at 50 Gb/s, Ceuppens said. “We configure two 50-Gb/s VLANs to carry a total of 100 G across that physical interface.” Only a single wavelength is used to transmit traffic at 100 Gb/s.

Cisco’s Liu told Connected Planet that Juniper’s approach could create “sequencing and reconstruction” difficulties. But Ceuppens disagreed. Because there are some approaches to delivering 100 Gb/s speeds that involve multiple wavelengths, Ceuppens said, “all that is standardized so you don’t have reconstruction and out-of-order problems anymore.”

Ceuppens added that Juniper already has sold several hundred T1600 routers with 100 Gb/s interfaces and customers have not experienced interoperability problems.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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