Nokia takes its core network routers into the petabit zone

via Flickr © brand0con (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via Flickr © brand0con (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • Nokia announces new routing platforms
  • New silicon - FP4
  • Two new solutions: the 7750 SR-s and the 7950 XRS-XC,

Four years or so ago, at the dawn of the current virtualization push, I asked the obvious question of an Alcatel networking expert. Could he see a time when bigger and even core routers might become virtualized?  In other words, will merchant silicon eventually have enough grunt to be applied to the big beasts of the network infrastructure?

He didn’t think it would happen because “it just wouldn’t make any sense” which I took to mean that as the X86 network processors became more capable, backbone speeds would also continue to grow apace and, therefore, the cost/performance ratio required to tackle the job would mean custom silicon would always be needed…  probably forever. .

A touch of salt needed to be applied here, of course, since Alcatel was in the business of producing big, proprietary switches and clearly would rather a market that they had poured loads of R&D into over the years, didn’t disappear. But the observation seemed valid and was duly noted.

Fast forward, and Nokia (where Alcatel now lives) has unveiled what it calls the “most powerful internet routing platform” - possibly the one that my contact was working on four years ago.

Core router (platform) launches have always been fairly rare events and in days past were often accompanied by dry ice and strains of 2001 Space Odyssey. Today in this software-driven world they are even rarer and are presented as capabilities or platforms rather than boxes, as Nokia has just done with its announcement of  two new routing solutions - the 7750 SR-s and 7950 XRS-XC, and, most importantly, a new FP4 (the follow-on to Alcatel’s FP3) chipset to power them.

Nokia says its  FP4 silicon “provides a generational performance boost over existing solutions while delivering improved network security and intelligence.”

The need for bigger and better routers are being driven by the usual Internet growth dynamics:  immersive communications, network video, IoT and so on are all applications putting extra data and new demands on the network with IP traffic, as always, doubling every few years - to 330 exabytes a month by 2022 (doubling in five years actually sounds rather tame, but never mind). It all requires a ”‘re-think” of the internet infrastructure says Nokia.

According to Basil Alwan, president of the ION Business Group at Nokia, "The internet platform is set to fully subsume HD on-demand video while simultaneously expanding with connectivity to billions of new devices. Stepping forward demands an immense performance increase, vastly improved insight and security and, of course, compelling economics. With today's announcement, we are delivering the technology advances needed to support this evolution. The end game is all-important: an evolved global nervous system for society and certainly the most capable, cost-effective, resilient and secure infrastructure ever built."

The numbers are impressive in a ‘Top Gear’ sort of a way.  Nokia boasts that the 7750 Service Router (SR)-s is the industry's highest-density routing platform. It can support a 144 Tbit/s configuration in a single shelf, while the petabit-class 7950 Extensible Routing System (XRS)-XC can scale to 576 Tbit/s in a single system. Both platforms can manage terabit IP flows, a 10 times improvement over the existing 100 Gb/s links used to construct the internet backbone today.

Another thing that may have changed is the targets. By its own admission, Nokia sees telco network spending in Europe at least, as soft going forward. What it calls ’adjacencies’ which includes Web scale players, may be the target market in the immediate future for very fast routers.


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