For the past few months, Cisco Systems has been promoting a special event in San Francisco where it would address the “Future of the Internet.” I’ve attended many of these types of events from various vendors in the past and some live up to the hype, but many do not. The Cisco one certainly did. What Cisco announced was a new networking platform for service providers that include new routers, silicon, optics and software.
The heart of the platform is a new programmable ASIC called Cisco Silicon One Q100. Almost all telco and web scale networking products have unique silicon and address the requirements of where the product sits. Different silicon was designed for the needs of the access edge, backhaul, core, aggregation layer or data center. The inconsistencies of features and performance from chip to chip can drive up operational costs. The Cisco Silicon One is designed to be used everywhere and in any platform. This helps bring some badly needed feature consistency across the network.
The new ASIC will be the foundation of Cisco’s routing portfolio moving forward and will have performance number of up to 25 Tbps. I believe it’s the first chip designed for both the webscale and service provider markets.
New Cisco Silicon powers its future routing strategy
Also, at the event Cisco unveiled a new router series, the Cisco 8000 series. The new silicon puts Cisco out in front in the service provider space surpassing Nokia’s 7750 and 7950. The new series was long overdue as Cisco had not had a platform upgrade for service providers since it launched the NCS about five years ago. The new switches are available in a variety of form factors, are 400 Gbps ready and have a capacity of 10.8 Tbps in a single rack unit. At that capacity, the largest of the family, has a total capacity of 648 400 GbE ports with a total capacity of 260 Tbps.
The routers run the new IOS XR7 operating system, which has been modernized to meet the demands of the fast-paced cloud world. The new OS is built on microservices and is can be integrated into orchestration and management tools via a wide range of open APIs. The new routers offer enhanced cybersecurity with integrated trust technology for real time insights into the integrity of the critical infrastructure. The new ASICs drive the power consumption of these products way down, but the big value comes from the automation capabilities.
The consistency of features combined with Cisco’s tools enables service providers to automate many operational tasks. Research firm ACG, who I consider to be the premier research organization with regards to telecom, conducted a study and found that the new Cisco platform can reduce operational overhead by 50% or more in some cases. Complete results can be found in this report (PDF).
Cisco has integrated optics into its routing architecture
The last piece of the platform is Cisco’s own optics. This was an area to which Cisco paid little attention several years ago, but the company has made a number of recent acquisitions, including Core Optics, Lightwire, Luxtera and Acacia. The reason this is important is that at 400GbE speeds, pluggable optics aren’t fast enough to keep up--meaning the optics must be integrated into the systems. In a few years, network vendors that cater to service providers and webscale companies that do not own their own optics will likely fall behind or be unable to compete.
This new routing platform is extremely important for service providers as 5G becomes a reality. When the mobile industry transitioned to 4G, service provider networks were crushed by the increased bandwidth. Also, mobile operators won’t be charging more for 5G as they do for 4G, so they need to find a way to deliver services cheaper to keep up.
The Cisco 8000 series enables mobile operators to deliver video and other high bandwidth services, without degradation of experience but significantly cut the cost of running the network.
For Cisco, this will help it regain its mojo with service providers. In its most recent earnings call, its service provider revenue dropped 13% year over year. This was partially macro-induced, because service-provider spending is very inconsistent from region to region, but Cisco was starting to fall behind. Now, with its new platform, it’s jumped ahead.
Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.