New Horizons out on the Edge


Amid all the talk of clouds and virtualization, it's easy to forget that tried-and-true technologies can still be the source of significant breakthroughs. Such is the case with Cisco's new Aggregation Services Router (ASR) 9000, the company's new edge router aimed at the high-volume networks of the not-too-distant future.


The router's technical capabilities are certainly impressive. It offers a six-fold increase in current edge capabilities, coming in at 6.4 Tbps with a line-card speed of 400 Gb per slot. It also employs IP over dense wavelength-division multiplexing (IPoDWDM) through integrated optical transponders in a bid to simplify core-to-edge network architectures. The system also incorporate's Cisco's QuantumFlow Processor for enhanced security and video applications, as well as the IOS XR software to enhance reliability, availability and scalability (RAS).


What's most intriguing about the 9000, however, is the window it offers on Cisco's expectations for both enterprise and consumer data loads in the near future. In a word, they're massive. The company is making no secret that it expects to be working with zettabytes of data, driven mostly by increasing amounts of digital video. While the design is based on silicon processing rather than blade processing, it does include a special blade component for things like content caching, streaming and video quality assurance.


We also could be seeing the advent of a new class of processors, according to gigaom's Stacey Higginbotham. Real-time data processing on the edge is putting a lot of pressure even on the latest multicore designs. On the original ASR line, Cisco turned to a company called Tensilica for its data plane processing (DPU) technology that can increase routing and processing capabilities without drawing much more power. Cisco is now using its own core for the QuantumFlow device, but expect to see more innovative designs from Tensilica, Freescale and others on future multicore chips.


It's also important to note that the original ASR line, which debuted only this spring, was designed largely as a WAN device. By adding more power to the edge, Cisco is making it possible to provide near-seamless integration of branch offices, and even clients, into centralized data centers.