Cisco to Finally Unveil Its Huge Fast Router

Cisco is finally set to show off its next-generation router technology, code-named HFR, but some feel the company is too late to the market.

Cisco Systems Inc. next week will show off its long-awaited advancement in router technology and make the case that it has returned to networkings cutting edge, a place where Cisco has been challenged of late.

According to sources familiar with the announcement, set for Tuesday morning at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., Cisco will finally unveil the next-generation gear, code-named HFR, or "Huge Fast Router." The HFR equipment is due for a more expansive demonstration at the Supercomm exhibition in Chicago next month, the sources said.

Cisco has been characteristically tight-lipped about HFR, around which rumors have been swirling for more than two years. But as the technology gets nearer to its public debut, the promise of HFR to juice the market and help Cisco keep pace with rivals such as Juniper Networks is leaving some industry observers underwhelmed.

According to analysts briefed on HFR, the new 16-slot routers scale to 1.2 terabits per second and can handle 40G-bps interfaces. While it boasts twice the capacity of Junipers highest-speed offering, the whopping HFR fills an entire 23-inch carrier rack. Junipers routers fit in half of a 19-inch rack, giving both roughly equal capacity per rack. That said, sources familiar with Tuesdays announcement said Cisco will be joined by several service provider customers, including some current Juniper users.

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The HFR will sport a new Cisco operating system as well. While analysts say the new modular OS should make the HFR more reliable and easier to manage than previous offerings, it could be a year or more of production operation before the OS is proven stable.

"Given that Junipers highest end family of routers have been deployed in over 60 carriers worldwide, including several of the largest, we believe that Juniper has effectively captured market share at the highest end of the market since Juniper released the router two years ago," said analyst Erik L. Suppiger of Pacific Growth Equities in San Francisco in a report to investors.

"While Ciscos HFR appears to bring Cisco close to parity with Juniper in terms of a high-end offering, we believe that Cisco is late to the market and the company will need to convince carriers that Ciscos next generation wont be two years behind," Suppiger wrote.

A Cisco official declined to comment, saying the company "does not confirm or deny rumors and speculation about unannounced products."

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