Cisco Upgrades Routers for 5G


By: Michael Vizard

Cisco today announced that the ASR 9000 series of routers is now ready to handle 5G traffic via the addition of 100G Ethernet line cards.

At the same time, Cisco announced a network-wide pay-as-you-grow license pooling, allowing ports on the new-generation line cards to be activated on-demand when installed in an existing or new ASR 9000 chassis.

That approach allows service providers to deploy 100G line cards in routers today that can come online as traffic grows without having to pay for software licenses until the line card is processing traffic, says Sumeet Arora, senior vice president of engineering for the Service Provider Business at Cisco.

Service providers are about to experience a massive growth in traffic in the months and years ahead as they try to drive demand for a wide variety of 5G services. In advance of that spike, Cisco wants to make it simpler for service providers to install networking equipment today that can address those needs as they arise, says Arora. Today Cisco has over 4,500 service providers using its ASR 9000 series of routers, notes Arora. Cisco expects the number of 5G connections will grow rapidly from 2.3 million in 2020 to more than 25 million in 2021. Cisco also anticipates nearly 850 zettabytes of data will be generated by all people, machines, and things by 2021, up from 220 ZB in 2016.

“There’s going to be massive traffic growth,” says Arora.

All those connections will result in not only a need for more bandwidth, but also increased reliance on automation as the amount of bandwidth consumed per user continues to grow, adds Arora. Much of that traffic will also be generated by low-latency applications requiring high amounts of network throughput. Servicing those applications will require much more sophisticated approaches to network slicing, he says.

By making available 100G line cards for a widely employed base of routers, Cisco is clearly defending a large base of service provider customers that are most likely evaluating a wide variety of network infrastructure options to support 5G applications. The degree to which service providers will opt to stick 100G line cards in an existing router remains to be seen. But for the moment at least, there should be more than a few service providers that will at least appreciate having the option.