Cisco: We built CRS-1 to change our IT image

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Cisco Systems Inc.’s CRS-1 Carrier Routing System, launched Tuesday, represents about five years of development effort costing about US$500 million, company officials said Wednesday.

But the total market for this

type of device, which is designed for carriers offering video, voice and data services over a single Internet Protocol (IP) network, is about US$1 to $2 billion, said Mike Volpi, senior vice-president and general manager of Cisco’s routing technology group.

“The market segment this will serve is not huge by Cisco standards,” Volpi said, but added the development of the CRS-1 was an opportunity to “show the world” that Cisco can develop this type of product from scratch.

“It was critically important to change the perception that Cisco was not a technology leader,” Volpi said.

CRS-1, which will start shipping in July, is designed to perform edge, core, peering and service aggregation routing functions in one device with 40 gigabit per second customer ports. It is aimed at carriers and service providers wanting to provide services such as video conferencing, video on demand, on-line gaming, voice and virtual private networks over IP networks.

“The majority of my communications is over the Web, not by e-mail, but by video,” said John Chambers, Cisco’s president and chief executive officer. “That will be the way that most employees communicate five years from now.”

Chambers, who made his remarks to about 60 journalists from around the world at the company’s headquarters, said he often speaks with employees via video feeds.

The first CRS-1 models will be able to route 1.2 Terabits per second (Tbps) of traffic, but Cisco says the product will be able to scale to 92 Tbps by combining single-shelf units with up to eight fabric card chassis.

Chambers said product is “different than nearly any other router built in the last decade – it was built from scratch – based 100 per cent on what customers told us to do.”

One requirement was the ability to upgrade the system without bringing network service down.

About 500 engineers — nearly 100 of whom are based in Ottawa — worked on developing the CRS-1, said Tony Bates, vice-president and general manager of the routing technology group of Cisco’s carrier core multi-services business unit.

Company officials wouldn’t predict when Cisco’s US$500 million investment in the CRS-1 would pay off, but said the product is part of the company’s long-term strategy to increase the percentage of its revenues that come from carriers, from 25 to 40 per cent.

“You’re building a product that, for the first time, will last two to three decades, if we do it right,” Chambers said.

The CRS-1’s basic model includes a 16-slot line card chassis which is 19 inches wide and designed to fit into a standard rack at a telco central office or point of presence.

It includes the IOS XR, a microkernel-based operating system, which can be upgraded without bringing down the network and the Silicon Packet Processor (SPP), with a 40 Gbps application specific integrated circuit (ASIC).

The SPP, which uses IBM silicon technology, “was the single most difficult piece of silicon that we tried to create,” said Dan Lenoski, Cisco’s vice-president of engineering.

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