I had the great fortune of attending Cisco’s exclusive Internet for the Future event held on December 11th in San Francisco. During the event, Cisco announced a number of new products and technologies, as well as an expansion of its business model that enables customers to consume technologies that were previously available only through the purchase of integrated systems. There was a lot to unpack from the event, but here are some of the highlights.
Cisco announced Silicon One, the architecture that the company will use to design, develop, and manufacture ASICs for routers and switches. The new architecture is a departure from their previous practice of having different silicon architectures across their router and switch portfolios. One of the key elements of the architecture is that it enables Cisco to scale ASICs up or down in terms of both bandwidth and networking features and services. This is a reminder that networking isn’t just about speeds and feeds, but also the capability to create and deliver services across network topologies and use cases.
The first ASIC based on Silicon One architecture is the Q100 routing ASIC that Cisco claims have the highest throughput on the market today at 10.8 Tbps.
8000 Series Routers
The new 8000 Series was introduced as the first router to use the Q100 ASIC. Several modular and fixed-configuration systems that support high densities of 400 Gbps and 100 Gbps Ethernet interfaces were announced, and overall system capacities are the highest in the industry. All models are currently shipping to customers for trials and are slated for general availability in the first half of 2020. The 8000 Series is positioned for core network applications for Telecom service providers and Cloud operators. In my conversations with Cisco executives, I was told that some customer trials have been ongoing for at least six months, which is a strong indicator that the 8000 Series is not far from generating revenue.
To complement the new hardware, the 8000 Series will be sold with a new version of Cisco’s network operating system, dubbed IOS XR7. XR7 is a lighter weight operating system that can be enhanced in a modular fashion to meet a wide range of use cases. This is different from previous versions of IOS XR where many features and functions were integrated, whether a customer needed them or not. I was told that XR7 will be used across a broad range of products, and in fact, has been available on the NCS 500 series since August.
Technology Consumption Model
And finally, Cisco announced that they will offer their new ASICs and IOS XR7 as independent products. This is a significant change from their traditional business model where silicon and software were only offered as part of a complete system. Earlier this year, Cisco said that they planned to sell optical modules to third parties, but the addition of the ASICs and IOS XR7 creates a broader business case for the new consumption model that thrusts Cisco into entirely new markets.
We will be watching all of these developments with great interest over the coming years.