Five years ago when Cisco Systems introduced its CRS-1 core router platform some criticized it as overkill, but it has enabled a growth in network traffic that in turn has fueled demand for thousands of the devices.
Cisco introduced the CRS-1 (Carrier Routing System) on May 25, 2004, as its first multichassis core router platform. The numbers were impressive: Fully configured, the system would have 72 racks of network interface modules and eight racks of interconnecting "fabric" modules, all acting as a single router with 92Tbps of capacity. In the four-year development of the CRS-1, Cisco even created a new version of its IOS (Internetwork Operating System) software, called IOS XR. The new OS shared elements with the traditional IOS, including its venerable command-line interface, but had a modular architecture for high availability.
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Five years later, Cisco's predictions of high-definition online video and ever-growing demand for Internet capacity have come true, and big carriers including AT&T, Verizon Wireless, China Telecom, Telstra, Comcast, and BT Group all have deployed CRS-1s, according to Cisco. But the rising tide has lifted rival Juniper Networks' core routers even more than Cisco's, and China's Huawei Technologies is making inroads in the lower end of the market, according to one analyst.
The CRS-1 came in the wake of Juniper Networks' T Series routers and TX Matrix interconnection system, another big multichassis platform for the core of carrier networks. It also emerged after several startups, including Caspian Networks and Procket Networks, had tried to jump into the big-money business of supplying the biggest routers on the Internet amid a historic telecommunication crash. Shortly after introducing the CRS-1, Cisco announced it was buying Procket's assets.
At its 2004 launch event in Mountain View, Calif., Cisco demonstrated the new platform with MCI (now part of Verizon Communications) by sending a high-definition video stream over a 40Gbps link while simulating thousands of other simultaneous traffic streams. But it wasn't until the following year that YouTube made video a force on the Internet, a trend that eventually placed video at the center of Cisco's corporate strategy. The company's video-oriented product line now spans room-sized TelePresence meeting systems to handheld Flip Video cameras and includes set-top boxes from the former Scientific-Atlanta.
Thanks in part to user-generated clips and other video, Internet traffic has grown at a breakneck pace. Sales of the CRS-1 have grown along the way, and Cisco claims it has now shipped more than 3,200 units to about 300 customers. More than 250 of the routers are multichassis configurations, deployed at more than 25 service providers, the company says. It took three years for the platform to generate its first $1 billion in revenue, but its latest $1 billion came in just a year, he said.
"Now it looks like the right product at the right time," said Suraj Shetty, vice president of worldwide service provider marketing.