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Cisco takes routers to the edge

Green-wrapped box saves planet and destroy rivals

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Cisco is set to save the planet while enabling the unfettered proliferation of YouTube videos as it unveiled its Aggregation Services Router 1000 at CeBIT, Hanover today.

This is a big launch for the company, which spent $250m to bring this edge router to market. First day endorsements from NTT, BT, Lufthansa and Wachovia, the big US bank, show that Juniper, the market leader for edge routers, has a fight on its hands.

BT said the ASR 1000 is critical to the roll-out of its IP-based 21st Century Network, while NTT will put it at the heart of its IPTV effort.

Video and IPTV are key rationales for the ASR 1000's development. Cisco opened today's launch press conference with a breathless declaration that we are entering an "Exabyte" age, with traffic hitting 29 Exabytes, or 29 billion GB, per month by 2011. The takeoff of video over the internet is to blame. Video was a negligible component of net traffic in the late 90s, and a minor consideration in 2003 when Cisco launched its CRS-1, which was seen as overkill at the time, the company says.

In action, the ASR 1000 will find its way to the edge of wide area networks, where it will aggregate disparate services, such as security, broadband aggregation and deep packet inspection, before they hit the core network. That means one box fits all - and lower maintenance and power costs, Cisco says.

At the core of the ASR 1000 is a custom asic, the QuantumFlow, with 800m transistors, which cost Cisco $100m alone to develop. The 2 inch by 2 inch chip can run 160 threads at 0.5w per process. Cisco compared this to the Core 2 mobile chip from Intel, which chugs through two threads at a time at 5w per thread. So what does this mean in practice? According to Cisco, the Quantumflow can "process 24,000,000 instructions in the time it takes an average person to blink". No, we can't visualise this, either. How about this, then? The Quantumflow processor can "provide equivalent processing power to 20 dual-core servers, using 10 times less space and 38,990 fewer kilowatt-hours per year".

The basic box - the 1000 can run two virtualized copies of Cisco's IOS software, allowing failover from one image to another without the need for hardware redundancy. Which is a good thing, as the basic box – the 1000 - starts at $35k when it ships next month.

Services are built into the router, with customers buying license keys as needed to bring them on stream. Cisco said the box is able to support future services.

And if that’s not enough, the ASR 1000 range - there are three versions - saves the rainforest as well. According to research cited by Cisco, for each ASR 1006 deployed compared to a “competitor” – the presentation doesn’t say who, but Juniper was mentioned in the press conference - equates to saving eight tons of coal, three cars standing idle, or 0.1 acres of trees. ®

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