Both Internet and video growth are expected to continue soaring. IDC forecasts that just consumer Internet traffic in the United States alone will grow from 14,000TB per day this year to more than 36,000TB per day in 2013, and that video will grow to more than 50 percent of total traffic by that time.
The rise of mobile data, with 3G and emerging 4G wireless networks, is also pushing up demand for high-capacity network cores. Verizon Wireless is now the largest customer of the CRS-1, Shetty said. The carrier is getting set to offer 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) service commercially next year. On Wednesday, Cisco announced the platform recently was deployed by MegaFon, a Russian 3G operator.
Yet even as the market for such powerful routers has blossomed, Cisco has actually lost ground to rival Juniper in market share, according to analyst Ray Mota of Synergy Research.
In the first quarter of 2004, Cisco had just under 73 percent of the market for core routers, compared with about 25 percent for Juniper and less than 2 percent for Avici, a meshed router maker that has since left the hardware business for software and renamed itself Soapstone. In the first quarter of this year, Cisco had just over 60 percent, next to Juniper's nearly 36 percent and more than 4 percent for Huawei, Mota said.
Cisco has extended its technology to smaller form factors of the CRS-1 for use at smaller service providers or facilities, Mota noted. This is the segment where Huawei is strongest, he said.
Traffic growth isn't the only factor driving the adoption of big routers such as the CRS-1, Mota said. Carriers are also using them to consolidate their routing infrastructure for cost savings and to build high-powered data centers to deliver cloud computing services, he said.
Carriers can now carve out resources for many customers on a single CRS-1, even physically separating them on different modules in the system to help isolate potential problems, Cisco's Shetty said.
The CRS-1 is also ready for the next generation of wide-area networking, Shetty said. Once there is an IEEE standard for 100Gbps Ethernet, the platform will be able to accommodate those interfaces as well as the 40Gbps ports it has now. Unlike earlier routers, designed for useful lifetimes of three to five years in ISPs, the CRS-1 was engineered from the ground up for the lifecycles of traditional carrier gear, lasting at least 10 to 15 years and potentially for decades to come, he said.
"Right now, I think we're just hitting our stride," Shetty said.