Next-generation Internet backbone is about to throttle up
March 15, 2010
by Mark Ollig

As the Internet’s growth increases, heavy demands for bandwidth are being asked of its network by the billions of mobile devices and computers businesses and folks like us have connected to it.

There are core routers within the backbone of the Internet which act like “data traffic controllers,” and they have been stressed as of late.

The ability of the Internet backbone to provide enough bandwidth in order to handle large amounts of data traffic is being tested as the increased use of high bandwidth applications and services like video-streaming, mobile computing, gamming, the migration of cloud computing, and other data-intensive requirements appear to be slowly sucking the life out of it.

No, the Internet is not on life-support – just yet.

One thing I am sure of, the future use of the Internet will definitely see it working more with high bandwidth applications like cloud computing and broadcast video.

Yours truly wrote a column about cloud computing back on March 30, 2009, and said “. . . cloud computing essentially enables computer users to easily access the applications they normally use directly over the Internet, instead of having them stored on their local hard drives or business computer servers . . . an alternative to having your software data and applications reside in your computer’s hard drive, they would be accessible from a remote central server, which would distribute them like any other application resource to you via the Internet.”

Cloud computing will – and slowly is – becoming one of the major players, requiring more bandwidth usage and processing within the core routers of the Internet.

Core routers send information from inside the backbone to their destinations as quickly as possible.

Today, the amount of “throughput” needed by the ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) and large company “edge routers” (which connect to the Internet backbone) for their subscribers and employees just keeps increasing.

Well-organized transferring of the information from the Internet to those edge routers and then to our computing devices also relys upon the throughput efficiency and processing power of those hard-working core routers within the Internet itself.

As more end user applications, high-definition video, cloud-connections, voice, two-way video calls, and eventually, broadcast television become totally merged onto the Internet network, the increased demands for improved processors, network broadband access, larger bandwidth, faster speeds, and reliable throughput will become critically essential, less the Internet becomes overwhelmed and overloaded.

The backbone of the Internet uses core routers, which support many types of access interfaces to them. They also distribute the massive amounts of IP (Internet Protocol) packet information.

Most of these core routers are made by Cisco and since 2004, their Carrier Routing System (CRS-1) core routers have mostly been used to provide the bandwidth throughput on the backbone of the Internet.

The other large maker of core routers is a company called Juniper.

A complete CRS-1 can provide up to 92Tb/s (terabits per second) of bandwidth capacity.

Last week Cisco announced their new core router, called the CRS-3.

At an incredible 322 Tb/s, the fully configured CRS-3 core router has three times the bandwidth handling capability as the CRS-1.

How fast is 322Tb/s? Utilizing this bandwidth speed would allow the entire printed collection of the Library of Congress to be downloaded in just over one second.

Three-hundred and twenty-two Tb/s would allow every man, woman and child in China to make a video call simultaneously.

And in honor of this year’s Oscars, I will mention the CRS-3 could download every motion picture ever made in less than five minutes.

Ten years ago, an Internet core router operated at only 2.5 Gbp/s (gigabits per second).

“The Cisco CRS-3 is well positioned to carry on the tradition of the Cisco CRS-1, become the flagship router of the future, and serves as the foundation for the world’s most intelligent and advanced broadband networks,” said Pankaj Patel, senior vice president and general manager of Service Provider Business from Cisco.

Your humble “core columnist” here at Bits & Bytes watched Cisco’s CRS-3 YouTube video. This nicely edited video is about four minutes long and shows the new core router and how it is used on the Internet network. You can see it at this shortened URL: tinyurl.com/yjvnftd.

The CRS-3’s will improve the transferring packet data capacities within the Internet backbone and thus will provide the Internet backbone with a more efficient throughput.

As far as we, the end user seeing immediate increases in downloading speed once CRS-3 core routers are installed, one must be aware that our end user speed and throughput results are also affected by any slow-downs or bottle-necks at the network backbone edge level, all of the hardware processor speed maximums and the bandwidth available to the content source.

The old saying about a chain being only as strong as its weakest link still holds true.

You can read more about the CRS-3 at Cisco’s news web page using this shortened URL: tinyurl.com/yh2mwh8.