Friday, October 23, 2009

QNX and Cisco's CRS-1: delivering the world's content at 2600 DVDs per second

Last week, Cisco did the favor of presenting to QNX some of the things being done with their CRS-1 (Carrier Router System), coincidentally powered by QNX Neutrino. That presentation brought out the geek in me.

It was pretty amazing to learn that IOS XR, Cisco's ultra reliable OS, lets them run 92 Terabits per second and uses hundreds of parallel processors is based on a straight, unmodified QNX kernel and QNX Transparent Distributed Processing. Now a Terabit is a lot, and 92 Tbps is hard for a mere mortal like me to understand, so I converted it into some more meaningful measurements. That's equivalent to squirting out 2,600 DVDs per second, or 18,000 CDs per second. Wow.

CRS-1 and QNX were responsible for delivering North American coverage of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. The High Def video feeds were all being pumped over the Pacific; HD video in real-time like this was a first. The video went through CRS-1 equipment first highly compressed, had local advertising inserted for each market, then re-integrated with the real-time video feed and shipped back out to their individual markets. With a high of 107 million people in just North America watching the games, that's a lot of pressure for failproof, glitch-free, real-time delivery.

Dozens of world-wide mega-corporation telecommunication carriers rely on CRS-1 for POTS, mobile phone, video, cable, and Internet feeds. There are a whole whack of countries that can run just one CRS-1 for the entire country. Cisco's CSR-1 telecom customers aren't public, but the majority of them are household names. There's a very good chance that your voice or video touches QNX every day.

People like my Mom don't care--she can barely operate a cell phone, let alone wonder about all the miles of cable, crates of equipment, and crowded server farms that make the modern world work. But for someone who's even only a part-time geek like me, it's pretty cool to find out what makes things tick. Especially when it's ticking to the beat of your company's software.

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