Juniper unimpressed by Cisco's 'huge fast router'

Cisco is expected to unveil its latest piece of high-end networking gear on Tuesday, but rivals are already playing down the prospect

Reports that networking giant Cisco will unveil a new high-end router later this week didn't set hearts fluttering at its nearest rival, Juniper Networks, on Monday.

Cisco is likely to take the wraps the product, which has been codenamed HRF or 'huge fast router', at an event in the US on Tuesday. It will be marketed to large telecommunications operators under the title of the Carrier Routing System-1 (CRS-1). Reports suggest that the CSR-1 is the first Cisco product that allows several boxes to be clustered together to function as a single network.

The long-awaited CSR-1 is Cisco's attempt to maintain its dominance in the high-end router market, where it controls more than half of all sales but is facing a growing threat from Juniper Networks.

Richard Brandon, Juniper's director of marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, suggested that the CRS-1 wasn't anything to get too excited about.

"Cisco is coming to a party that started two and a half years ago," said Brandon, claiming that many of CRS-1's forthcoming features are already included in Juniper's T640 router, which has been on sale for the last two years.

"It's always good to have another player in the market. The CRS-1 sounds like it will be new for them [Cisco], but it's not new for the market's perspective."

Reports say that the CSR-1 will be based on a new modular operating system that will supersede Cisco's existing Internetwork Operating System (IOS), and analysts believe that this will be the most exciting part of Cisco's impending announcement.

"The software is a much a bigger deal for Cisco than the new routing hardware," Stephen Kamman, an equities analyst with CIBC World Markets, told CNET News.com. "It will be important to see how quickly they transition other products over to the new version."

Brandon had a more critical view, and claimed that existing Cisco customers might now be concerned that they were stuck with networking equipment running an operating system that was "effectively obsolete".

Cisco didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reports suggest that CSR-1 will have at least one advantage over existing network hardware. As a stand-alone chassis it is expected to be able to handle at least 640 gigabits of data per second -- more than twice as much as the Juniper T640.

This capacity could prove tempting to telcos that are looking to upgrade their networks to cope with the growth in traffic that will occur as the demand for IP-based services continues to grow. Not everyone agrees, though.

"Raw speed gets you into the game, but it also misses the point," claimed Brandon, who insisted that it was more important to be able to guarantee service quality by supporting technologies such as multiprotocol label switching.