Cisco unveils a router for the 'Zettabyte Era'

Forget petabytes and exabytes, video packets are exploding

Cisco Systems Inc. today introduced what it calls the "Zettabyte Era," the next generation of extreme networking.

Cisco believes service providers will begin looking at the amount of data from the coming onslaught of video applications in terms much larger than petabytes or even exabytes. All manners of video will need faster routing, from handheld applications to cable TV programming.

Instead of needing switching for petabytes or even exabytes of data, the zettabyte will soon be the preferred term, equal to 10 to the power of 18, said Suraj Shetty, Cisco's vice president of worldwide service provider marketing.

To help service providers prepare for the data explosion, Cisco today announced the Aggregation Services Router (ASR) 9000. No shipment date was announced for the ASR 9000, which has a price tag starting at $80,000. Trials of the device, however, are under way with top-tier service providers in North America and Europe, Shetty said.

Today's announcement is the second major enhancement to Cisco's ASR series after the ASR 1000, which was announced last March. Last week, Cisco announced a doubling of the router speed of the ASR 1000.

The ASR 9000 will provide as much as six times the capacity of comparable routers, offering up to 6.4Tbit/sec. of total capacity, Shetty said. He said that amount of data is equal to 1.2 million hours of DVD traffic traveling through the router in a second.

The ASR 9000 would typically be placed at network aggregation edges, which are often inside buildings called points of presence, which serve several neighborhoods of homes and businesses. It is expected that carriers will link them with Cisco CRS-1 Carrier routers in the core of their networks, offering 92Tbit/sec. capacity.

Significantly, the ASR 9000 will incorporate a new Cisco Advanced Video Services Module to enable fast streaming capacity, which simultaneously allows content caching, ad insertion, fast channel changing and error correction.

Those capabilities, particularly the ability to insert advertising into video streams, were shown by AT&T Inc. in a technology demonstration held in September in New York. However, neither Cisco nor AT&T would say that AT&T is testing the ASR 9000.

To put things in perspective about the unabated growth of video traffic, Shetty said it is appropriate to start thinking in terms of the zettabyte, which is the same as 1,000 exabytes. Shetty has become a walking encyclopedia on the zettabyte, noting that the growth in all IP traffic globally will be nearly 50% between now and 2012, based on a Cisco forecast that noted the enormous increases in video traffic, as well as social networking and business applications.

To meet the additional annual bandwidth demand of that forecast, Shetty said Cisco has estimated the world's IP networks will need to handle 522 exabytes more each year, which is equivalent to downloading 125 billion DVD movies each month.

Cisco named Softbank Corp., a network provider in Tokyo as expressing an interest in the ASR 9000, especially to incorporate 4G wireless and video traffic in its more conventional networks.

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