The role of the core router revolves around high-performance, high-capacity packet processing. With service providers focused on investment at the network edge, core router vendors have been challenged to increase the capacity of their products to accommodate exploding bandwidth demand.
Vendors have two paths to accomplish this: they can increase per-slot switching capacity and offer higher-speed ports, and they can increase the number of physical ports via router clustering. At its 2013 Global Analyst Summit, Huawei told analysts that it is investing in both approaches.
In conversations with Ovum, Huawei said it spent $150 million to develop its Solar 3.0 network processor chipset, and it expects to spend twice that on its fourth-generation Solar 5.0 chipset, which will support 1Tbps.
Ovum believes the steep investment required to develop core routers at 400GE and higher rates is a financial hurdle that will limit the number of vendors competing in this market, perhaps even challenging the status quo in market share.
400Gbps and 1Tbps line cards
To support higher network capacity and improve the bandwidth density of core router platforms, vendors have been evolving their products to support higher line rates, increased port counts, and higher bandwidth capacity per interface slot. All major router vendors currently offer dual 100GE line cards on their core routers.
Ovum expects continued growth in bandwidth demand will push open the commercial window for 400GE ports over the next few years. In fact, the first operational 400Gbps optical link was deployed by France Telecom in February 2013, and Verizon has talked about 400GE deployment in 2014.