Cisco Brings Network Virtualization to ASR 9000 Routers

Cisco is rolling out two new members of the ASR 9000 router portfolio armed with its new nV network virtualization technology.

Cisco Systems officials earlier this month released a report that found that by 2015, global Internet traffic will approach the zettabyte level, driven in large part by the rapid spread of mobile devices and the increase in video.

Now the networking giant is rolling out new routers for its ASR (Aggregation Services Router) line designed to help service providers meet the rising tide of traffic generated and to help businesses make the transition to IPv6. Cisco on June 7 also introduced a new innovation called nV (network virtualization) technology, which was created to make network management easier and grow capacity by collapsing the network edge, aggregation and access layers into a single ASR 9000 system.

The nV technology will first appear in new ASR 9000 routers, then will be made available on other Cisco platforms, according to the company.

The new router family and technology come at a time of increasing pressure on service providers, who are trying to keep up with the rapid rise of Internet traffic and increasing performance demands. In their annual Visual Networking Index Forecast, released June 1, Cisco officials said the amount of traffic will quadruple by 2015, thanks to the rise of such mobile devices as smartphones and tablets, greater use of video on the Internet, and faster broadband speeds.

During that time, as annual traffic reaches 996 exabytes-an exabyte is 1 quintrillion bytes-there will be almost 15 billion network-connected devices in the world, or essentially two for every person. Those include not only notebooks, tablets and smartphones, but also appliances and other smart machines.

Managing all that while meeting user demand for high network performance is the burden of service providers, according to Cisco.

"This is a critical period in the broadband communications industry," Pankaj Patel, senior vice president of engineering and general manager of service provider business at Cisco, said in a statement. "To remain competitive and meet consumer and business customer needs, service providers must deliver next-generation Internet experiences."

That is where Cisco's new offerings come in, according to officials. The two new ASR products join the existing 9010 and 9006 systems. The vendor is rolling out the ASR 9922 router for the edge, with 43 racks and a 22-slot chassis. Cisco also is offering two new modules for the router: a two-port, 100-gigabit-per-second Ethernet card and a 24-port 10GbE card.

Cisco's ASR 9000v is a 1U (1.75-inch) system aimed at the aggregation layer and can be used as a remote line card for other ASR systems.

According to Cisco officials, the new ASR 9000 system combined with the nV technology offers 36 times the capacity of other competing products at 96 terabits per second. With such capacity, users could stream recordings of all Super Bowls, World Cup and Cricket World Cup matches in less than a second, or download 180,000 DVDs every minute, the vendor said.

The combination also means operating cost savings of up to 70 percent compared with competing edge platforms, simplified IPv6 transition and support for Cisco's Videoscape technology.

Cisco officials said that most of the top service providers-including China Telecom, Comcast, Cox Communications and Tata Communications, are using the ASR 9000 platform.

Cisco's new routers come as the networking giant looks to stave off rising competition in the networking space from the likes of Hewlett-Packard-with the assets from its 3Com acquisition of last year-and Juniper Networks. Over the past few years, Cisco has aggressively moved into new businesses, such as video collaboration, data center hardware and smart grids, a situation that some analysts have argued made its core networking business more vulnerable. According to market research firm IDC, Cisco in the past five years has seen its market share in routers drop 11 percent and 2 percent in switches.

Mike Marcellin, vice president of marketing and business strategy at Juniper Networks, said in a statement that "Cisco has made claims about the ASR 9000 that they have not delivered against."

Marcellin argued that Juniper's MX3D system offers greater capacity.

"Three years ago, Cisco announced the ASR 9000 platform, claiming six times the total system capacity of the nearest competitor and 400G per slot," he said. "It missed its ship target by one year, and what they have delivered has never surpassed Juniper's MX3D in total system capacity or per slot capacity."