CRS Family Exemplifies Cisco’s Commitment to Innovation, Internet Networking Leadership

Last month, when we formally introduced the Carrier Routing System X (CRS-X), we said it was joining the CRS family.

As I reflect on the last 10 years, the term family certainly feels appropriate to those of us fortunate enough to work on a product line that has had such a profound impact on the networking and telecommunications industries.

The new CRS-X delivers 10 times the capacity of the original CRS-1

I remember the day we unveiled the original CRS-1.  It was a sunny morning in May, 2004 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.   Technology trade media had anticipated the announcement for months.   And soon business reporters were sniffing around our campus, trying to get the scoop on what was coming.  Everyone knew Cisco was working on a secret “super router.”  But no one knew exactly what was behind the curtain.

Hundreds of reporters, industry and financial analysts, and industry opinion-leaders attended the half-day product unveiling.

Most Ambitious Project

I was on the marketing team that helped launch the product, which took over four years, half a billion dollars, and 500 engineers to build.  The CRS-1 was a global effort, with team members heralding from the four-corners of the world, including Israel, Canada, England, India, Scotland, and several cities in the United States.

It was the most ambitious project Cisco had ever undertaken.

The press release that day dubbed the CRS-1 “a new class of routing system designed to deliver continuous system operation, service flexibility and extended system longevity to telecommunications service providers to enable (them) to scale network capacity to new levels…and deliver next-generation services over a converged IP network while protecting their investments in the system.” 

Nine years ago, in the wake of the dot.com bubble, the Internet and Telecom worlds were colliding.  The CRS-1 was a new class of routing system custom-built to consolidate all voice, video, and data traffic onto a single network infrastructure based on IP technology. The CRS-1 offered the bullet-proof reliability that major telecommunications companies had come to expect from their phone systems, as well as the revolutionary capabilities delivered by Internet.

The industry had never seen such a powerful router.  Additional chassis could be seamlessly added to expand the machine to as much as 92 trillion bits of capacity. With such power, a single CRS-1 system could provide an 850 kilobit-per-second (Kbps) connection to every household in the United States, transfer the entire collection of the U.S. Library of Congress in 4.6 seconds, or connect 3 billion telephone calls in the blink of an eye. Such capability made crystal clear video and audio over the Internet as simple as picking up the phone.

Cisco’s no-holds-barred approach to creating the CRS-1 also inspired several breakthroughs in semiconductor technology, as Cisco developed eight chips for the CRS-1. Perhaps most impressive is the Silicon Packet Processor (SPP), which runs many of the router’s decision-making functions for directing communications packets across a network.

But there were naysayers.

Some influencer in the audience that day believed we over-engineered the system and predicted that no more than a handful of large tier-one service providers would have the need for such a mighty machine.

At the time, we didn’t know for sure if we were visionaries or dreamers.

Deep down, we were confident that service providers would not only want this technology in their networks, but that with an influx of video, data and new interactive applications and services, they would need it.

While customers did not immediately line up, we did know that the passing of time would be the ultimate judge.

The verdict? Over the last nine years, the CRS has amassed 750 customers (and counting).

A marketing campaign featuring the likes of Richard Branson welcomed the CRS to the world in 2004.

Staying Power

The day the CRS-1 was unveiled was a watershed moment, not only for Cisco, but the high-tech industry, as well.   I’ve told my family and close friends May 2004 felt like the time when Cisco became an adult in the service provider market, a global technology leader to be reckoned with.

Back in 2004, the media and analysts focused on the powerful capabilities of the CRS-1.  But our customers knew better.  They understood the value and savings the CRS could provide them over time.  They knew that unlike conventional routers that need constant upgrades, this system was built to last and would provide unparalleled opex savings.

Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers said the CRS-1 will be able to lead the transition to IP-based communications over the next 10 to 15 years.  Nine year later, his prediction is right on track.


CRS-1 x 10 = CRS-X

The new CRS-X – which provides 10 times the capacity of the CRS-1 and three times the capacity of its predecessor, the CRS-3 – provides unmatched economical scale and lasting investment protection for more than 10,000 CRS systems in operation today.

By delivering a single system that has increased its capacity 10-fold in nearly 10 years, Cisco enables CRS customers to reduce their total cost of ownership by nearly 50 percent compared with the nearest competitive solution.

Over this period, the CRS has delivered customers 80 percent power savings, as well as a 76 percent savings in transport costs. The CRS-X system has been architected to help ensure that more than 10,000 existing CRS-1 and CRS-3 systems in operation can be easily upgraded with minimal impact during the upgrade itself.

“Other technology providers force operators to rip and replace their products on a regular basis,” said Surya Panditi, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s service provider networking group.  “Cisco’s flagship networking platforms are designed with investment protection for decades and beyond.  Service providers, large educational and research networks, and government agencies around the world are preparing for the next-generation Internet and the increasing demand for video, collaboration and distributed computing.  CRS-X demonstrates Cisco’s commitment to leading the industry in IP core technology and protecting the investment of our existing CRS customers.”

Longtime CRS customers are endorsing the latest addition to the CRS family, as well.

Junichi Miyakawa, executive vice president, board director & CTO, SoftBank Mobile Corporation, said: “We are very pleased at the continued development of the Cisco CRS platform, which has served as the foundation of our advanced network infrastructure for many years. With the ability to scale to 400 gigabits per second and highly available architecture, the CRS continues to provide unparalleled investment protection and help ensure SoftBank Mobile’s ability to remain one of the leading broadband content and service providers in Japan.”

And Mike Haberman, vice president of network operations for Verizon Wireless, had this to say about the upgraded product line: “The Cisco CRS provides Verizon Wireless with an intelligent core solution and the ability to scale up to 400 Gbps per slot, which will meet our service demands well into the future.”

Looking back on the last ten years, I want to thank and congratulate everyone at Cisco who contributed to the CRS family.  And to our customers – especially those early CRS adopters who took a leap of faith back in 2004 – we thank you for your partnership and your loyalty and remain steadfast in our goal of becoming your partner of choice to support your business over the next decade, as well.

Rest assured Surya, his peers, and their brilliant engineering teams are hard at work on the next big thing (or things, to be fully accurate).  Just like on that May day years ago, we can’t wait to show you what’s the behind the curtain.


Doug Webster

Vice President