A Cisco subsidiary offers Internet and networking routers starting at under $50 and those Linksys devices are really good at distributing data around a home or office. But companies that are in the business of distributing data within the Internet infrastructure and between Internet service providers across long distances need to spend a tad bit more for their routers. How does $90,000 grab you?
That's the starting price of Cisco's CRS-3 router that it announced Tuesday with great fanfare. The device can deliver a whopping 322 terabits of data. That, according to CEO John Chambers, is 3 times the speed of the company's existing CRS-1 router and 12 times faster than what the competition offers.
It took a bit of web surfing, but I did find out that CRS stands for Carrier Routing System. As far as I can tell there isn't a CRS-2 router.
Cisco made a really big deal out of this announcement, claiming in advance that it would "forever change the Internet." It was a big enough deal for a radio reporter to wake me up at 5:30 AM to talk about it and for me to tune into a webcast announcement at 8:00 AM followed by a 9:00 AM visit from a TV camera crew to so that viewers could be filled in about this incredible new development. In retrospect, I wish I had stayed in bed.
Clearly, this is a serious product which, someday, could have a significant impact on the ability for service providers to deliver high speed data. Cisco says that the product is mostly about delivering video, claiming that the routers could make it possible for "every man woman and child in China to make a video call simultaneously." The company also said that every printed work in the Library of Congress could be downloaded in just over a second and that every movie ever made could be downloaded in less than 4 seconds, which might be really good news for media pirates.
In addition to the vast demands of entertainment and video conferencing, the technology could play a role in telemedicine and, of course, education. It comes as FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is in the process of rolling out the Obama Administrations' National Broadband Plan. On Friday, March 12th, Genachowski "will deliver a major policy speech outlining how the new National Broadband Plan will benefit children and families," according to the FCC.
The Cisco announcement also comes on the heels of Google's announced plans to build out a high speed fiber network in selected communities across the country. Unlike the Cisco router, the Google networks will deliver that data directly into homes. The Cisco product is really about the backbone plumbing. It's kind of like a freeway interchange that is necessary to speed traffic between highways but no substitute for local roads.
AT&T Labs chief Keith Cambron appeared with Chambers on the Webcast saying that his company has been testing the device on a 100 gigabit network backbone but he also indicated that it could play a role in the delivery of mobile data. I wonder if it will help out all those iPhone users in San Francisco who are having trouble with their 3G data plans?
As a reasonably heavy consumer of data, I'm all for progress at the infrastructure level. After all, how could I continue to be able to stream my Amazon and Netflix videos if the Internet gets too clogged up to handle all that traffic? It truly is important for companies like Cisco to innovate and keep things moving.
Still, I can't help feel a little bit used by the company's PR flacks. "Forever change the Internet" seems like a bit of hyperbole to me and, trust me, I've heard plenty of hyperbole after three decades covering technology companies in Silicon Valley.
My biggest problem with the Cisco press conference was trying to stay awake. After two cups of coffee and the anticipation of learning about something incredible, I found myself inundated with technical terms that even I don't understand.
As talented as Cisco CEO John Chambers may be, he is no match for that other master of overstatement, Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Jobs too exaggerates but he does it with such flare that you want to believe him even when you know that the product he's announcing - as good as it might be - can't possibly be all that good. Still, Jobs does it with infectious enthusiasm that Chamber can't possibly match.
The new Cisco router will be available late this year. For the few who care, details about the Cisco router are on the company's website.