Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers for more than a year has been preaching that the seemingly insatiable demand for network bandwidth will only grow as video, mobile devices and cloud computing become more prominent.
Chambers reiterated that message March 9 when unveiling Cisco’s massive CRS-3 router, which promises a capacity of 322T bps, can support IPv6 traffic and supports other Cisco data center and cloud computing products such as its UCS (Unified Computing System) and Nexus portfolio of switches.
Developed over the course of three years at a cost of $1.6 billion, the CRS-3 is ready to take on the future bandwidth demands of the average business and the average consumer, with their video communications and rapidly increasing use of mobile devices as a primary Internet device, Chambers said.
Industry analysts agreed, noting that six years ago, when Cisco unveiled its CRS-1, few thought bandwidth demand would reach the point where 92T-bps capacity was needed. However, as Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala said, Cisco has shipped almost 5,000 CRS-1 routers during those six years.
“Clearly, there’s a demand,” Kerravala said in a blog post March 9.
He said Chambers’ vision dovetails with what Yankee Group analysts said in introducing their Anywhere Enterprise idea in 2008: that the convergence of cloud computing, mobility and social media-including video-would drive the need for more powerful networks.
In the consumer world, that’s playing out with such products as cloud-based video, real-time gaming services and HD television.
“In the enterprise markets, this means growth of bandwidth-intensive applications such as workload mobility, unified communications, videoconferencing and telepresence,” Kerravala wrote. “Moving these complex applications to the cloud certainly decreases the complexity level for enterprises and allows the network operators to move from being a vendor of commodity services to a strategic partner.”
Brian White, an analyst with Ticonderoga Securities, agreed.
“The naysayers will label Cisco’s latest invention as ‘hype;’ however, new, high-performance innovations such as the CRS-3 pave the way for the development of new applications, new services, new uses of data and potentially new industries,” White wrote in a March 10 report. “At the same time, these products set the stage for the next big leap in performance that will drive even more data traffic. Ultimately, the few leading networking vendors that are able keep up with this innovation cycle will reap the benefits.”
Both Kerravala and White said they expect that the demand for bandwidth will continue to grow, particularly as more products like the CRS-3 arrive to handle that demand.
“Overall, Cisco estimates that each person will consume 15TB of data between our personal and professional lives every month,” Kerravala wrote. “Is the 15TB a real number? Maybe and maybe not. But the fact remains, we use all the bandwidth we’re given and will continue to.”
The more capacity there is, the more consumers will want it, White said.
“As companies such as Cisco enable service providers to deliver higher-bandwidth services to both consumers and enterprises, we believe this capacity will expand the core footprint [and] drive further demand for networking gear, and new applications will arise that drive further investment,” White wrote.
Video will be a key player in this, he said. Cisco has estimated that 91 percent of Internet traffic by 2013 will be video, and overall, IP traffic will grow 40 percent per year. The CRS-3 not only will be a good tool for handling that, but also will play a significant role in future data centers, White said.
“Expanded capacity at the core with the CRS-3 will also pave the way for more powerful data centers that can support the public cloud, which Cisco is well-positioned to benefit [from] with its Nexus and UCS platforms,” White said.
Juniper Networks Takes Different View
Other analysts are seeing a promising future for the router space. In February, Dell’Oro Group said Cisco and its closest rival, Juniper Networks, were key drivers in the 15 percent revenue jump in routers for service providers in the fourth quarter of 2009, and said it expects the trend to continue in 2010. Cisco saw an 11 percent increase in revenue during the quarter, Juniper 17 percent.
“With the worst of the economic downturn behind us, we expect that service providers will start more network projects resulting in meaningful market growth this year,” Dell’Oro analyst Shin Umeda said at the time.
Juniper also is aggressively expanding the capabilities of its products to meet the growing bandwidth demand. At the Mobile World Congress event in February, Juniper unveiled a host of new offerings addressing mobile device traffic across networks and that will rely on Juniper products such as its MX 3D Series routers, SRX Series Services Gateways and Junos network operating system.
At the time, Juniper officials said mobile operators were looking for vendors to move away from offering boxes-an obvious dig at Cisco-and toward more open platforms with greater innovation. During an interview the day after Cisco’s CRS-3 announcement, Mike Marcellin, Juniper’s vice president of marketing in its Infrastructure Business Group and Junos Ready Software, reiterated that statement.
Marcellin agreed with Cisco officials that IP traffic is growing rapidly.
“The network is feeling the strain of that growth,” he said. “The growth of traffic is truly exponential.”
Marcellin said there are key differences in the approaches Cisco and Juniper are taking in dealing with that growth. He said Juniper has been selling systems with 100GB capabilities for several years, and pointed to the unveiling in October 2009 of the company’s Junos Trio chipset, which allows for 2.6T-bps throughput. The silicon also supports more subscribers, services and bandwidth than previous chipset technology did.
Juniper also takes advantage of the Junos operating system and an open platform that enables third parties to develop applications that are optimized for Juniper’s products. Service providers are looking for innovation, not simply another box, he said.