How will Cisco "forever change the internet"? With a new router.
Which raises the question: What the hell is wrong with technology companies?
When networking giant and server wannabe Cisco Systems sent word that today it would "make a significant announcement that will forever change the Internet and its impact on consumers, businesses and governments," it set the bar pretty high for an earth-shattering revelation. Cisco has plowed $1.6bn into carrier router development to bring the CRS family of products to market, but this is still a router announcement. That's nothing to be embarrassed about, but there's no reason to oversell it like a politician or a snake-oil salesman. (If there's a difference between the two.)
The new Carrier Routing System from Cisco, dubbed the CRS-3, will offer telecommunications and service providers who build the IP networks that voice and data traffic rides upon with a factor of three in bandwidth improvement, which might just mean that all of these handheld devices with broadband links won't absolutely crash networks. The top-end box has a whopping 322 Tbps of aggregate bandwidth, compared to the current CRS-1 router that Cisco announced six years ago that is rated at 92 Tbps.
This is a lot more bandwidth, and because telcos and service providers need to keep their customers happy as they try to use higher definition multimedia - often streamed through the Internet - they are going to have to shell out billions and billions of dollars to upgrade their networks and will use core routers such as the CRS-3 as the foundation of the next rev of their backbones.
By changing the world, what Cisco apparently meant is that network providers will now have enough bandwidth to allow for true video conferencing for the masses, not just for businesses that want to avoid travel and lodging expenses and use telepresence services (sometimes from Cisco) to hold virtual meetings.
"Video is the killer app," explained John Chambers, Cisco's chairman and chief executive officer. "It brings things to life."
With the CRS-1 carrier router launch six years ago, voice over IP was the killer app, and Chambers slammed critics who said at the time the company would only sell about a dozen of these high-end routers, since they had enough bandwidth in a single box to support over 1 billion phone calls simultaneously. Today, Cisco has 300 customers using the CRS-1 routers and over 5,000 systems are installed.
Chambers reiterated, as he always does, that Cisco feeds on market transitions and has a habit of calling technology changes correctly. Meaning that if you are thinking that the network providers are not ready for something as hefty as the CRS-3, which can handle over 1 billion video streams in a single box, you are wrong. People want to have video links instead of phone calls and service providers want to charge them for the service, so it is inevitable.
Of course, video phones have been inevitable for more than a century; Alexander Graham Bell predicted a little something called the electrical radiophone back in 1891 and added that at some point, such a device would evolve so users could see each other as they talked.
AT&T's Picturephone from the 1960s never took off, and only with the ubiquity and bandwidth available through the Internet is it even possible for video services to go mainstream. It would be great for everyone to have 1 Gbps links into their homes and over wireless networks to make video ubiquitous. Unless you like to do all kinds of other things when you are talking to people or listening to people on the telephone.