Cisco Evolves the Internet With CRS-3

The “huge fast router” is about to get even faster.

Cisco on Tuesday announced the successor to its CRS-1 core router with the new CRS-3 platform, which the company said offers a more than threefold increase in capacity.

The CRS-1 provides up to 92 terabits per second of capacity, while the new CRS-3 delivers 322 Tbps. In announcing the new core router, Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) executives described the CRS-3 as the foundation for the next stage of Internet traffic growth.

“It’s about intelligence throughout the network that allows you to accomplish what sounds simple – any device to any content and doing that on a scale that hasn’t been done before,” Cisco CEO John Chambers said during a Webcast discussing the CRS-3.

Cisco has invested $1.6 billion in the development of the CRS family of routers. Chambers noted that it took five years to develop the first CRS-1, which debuted in 2004, and it took three years of development to build out the CRS-3.

One of the key components of the CRS-3 is the new Cisco Quantum Flow Array Processor, the latest evolution of the Quantum Flow silicon Cisco unveiled in 2008 after investing $100 million into the research and development of the technology. Chambers noted that it is key to Cisco’s overall strategy to continue to develop its own silicon, as well as hardware and software, to continue to press ahead with innovation at the company.

In addition to the raw capacity boost the CRS-3 promises, Cisco is also providing new intelligence features.

Pankaj Patel, Cisco’s senior vice president and general manager of the Service Provider Business, explained that the CRS-3 includes a technology the company is calling the Network Positioning System (NPS). He noted that NPS is analogous to GPS in the sense that it optimizes the discovery of content and resources in the network.

The CRS-3 will also enable cloud-based VPNs, which will deliver on-demand computing, storage and networking capacity.

AT&T’s 100G Network

Even though Cisco is just officially announcing the CRS-3 today, it has already had the router in beta tests in the field. Among those that have tested the CRS-3 is AT&T (NYSE: T), which has been using the router for 100 Gigabit per second (100G) network field trials.

That mark is the next major speed advance for the service providers, and a significant boost from the current maximum transport speed of 40G.

Keith Cambron, president and CEO of AT&T Labs, noted that the company’s network needs 100G technology to meet growing customers demands. He added that the field trial experience of using the CRS-3 for 100G traffic over a real transport route has given AT&T more confidence about putting 100G into production service.

Cisco is not the only big router vendor aiming for a piece of the 100G market. Rival Juniper Networks this week announced that it had completed a successful trial of 100G technology with Verizon. Juniper’s T1600 core router competes against the CRS-1, and the company recently announced a bandwidth boost for the product.

Overall, Cisco’s Chambers sees the CRS-3 as the key to helping enable greater network connectivity and intelligent services.

“The foundation is the CRS-3 and what it entails, and while today that might not be exciting to that average consumer, let me to you it is the foundation for speed and scalability,” Chambers said.

Part of the foundation might be the ability to more effectively deliver high-speed broadband to more people around the world. Google recently announced a plan to deliver gigabit Ethernet to select communities in the U.S., for instance. But Cisco’s approach to delivering broadband is a bit different.

“Our strategy is how do we bring this to life — which is we partner with service providers and we don’t compete with them,” Chambers said. “We love anyone that loads networks, so clearly I love Google — but it does require intelligence in the network to get the response times you need. It’s also about how you load networks and encourage the people that invest in the networks to get a fair return on it.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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