Cisco's ASR 9000: All hat, no cattle?

Competitors assess what's real and what's not as Cisco keeps quiet on details

As Cisco remains tight-lipped on details of its new Carrier Ethernet router, competitors are highlighting what they perceive to be the product's deficiencies.

Cisco this week unveiled the ASR 9000, widely believed to be the successor to its eight-year-old 7600 series router in Carrier Ethernet aggregation and service applications. The company says it is capable of 6.4Tbps of bandwidth with 400Gbps per slot, six times the capacity of competitive offerings.

But Cisco did not discuss how or when it can deliver those 400Gbps per slot, nor did it detail the actual interface line cards and port densities to be housed in the ASR 9000 chassis. After three follow-up attempts to gather these details, all Cisco would say is that the ASR 9000 will support, but is not limited to, Fast Ethernet, 1 Gigabit Ethernet, 10 Gigabit Ethernet and 100 Gigabit Ethernet.

Therein lies the problem with the new router, competitors say: It's big on hype, small on reality. If it were a cowboy, it'd be all hat and no cattle.

Competitors also say it will be years beyond the initial first quarter of 2009 shipping date for the ASR 9000 to reach that 6.4Tbps potential.

"Focusing so much attention on forward-looking capacity claims ignores some of the factors that customers consider most important in the edge -- namely, feature richness and operational efficiency and consistency," a Juniper spokesman said, adding that Juniper has shipped 300 MX-series Ethernet routers in less than two years at 40Gbps per slot, with "readiness" to 100G.

"The capacity claims are future-based hype," says Lindsay Newell, vice president of marketing in Alcatel-Lucent's IP division. "The ASR 9000 reality is not even parity with Alcatel-Lucent's shipping products."

At initial release, the ASR 9000 may support eight I/O slots with 40Gbps performance per slot -- or an overall system capacity of 320Gbps, Newell believes. Alcatel-Lucent's 7750 Service Router is shipping at 500Gbps, he says.

Also, Cisco's claims of harnessing the power of its new QuantumFlow processor (QFP) for ASR 9000 services, such as video, session border control, subscriber management and virtual private LAN switching, may be a shell game, Newell notes.

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