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Cisco outlines silicon, software roadmap for next generation internet

The networking giant announced a multi-year plan for building and investing in 5G internet technology, including silicon, optics and software.
Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor

Cisco on Wednesday outlined new details behind its strategy to build next-generation internet technology. As a set up for what it dubs its 'Internet for the Future' strategy, the networking giant announced a multi-year plan for building and investing in 5G internet technology, including silicon, optics and software. 

"Innovation requires focused investment, the right team and a culture that values imagination," said Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, in a statement. "We are dedicated to transforming the industry to build a new internet for the 5G era. Our latest solutions in silicon, optics and software represent the continued innovation we're driving that helps our customers stay ahead of the curve and create new, ground-breaking experiences for their customers and end users for decades to come."

On the silicon side, Cisco announced Silicon One, a new switching and routing applications specific integrated circuit (ASIC) for the 5G internet era. The programmable networking chip is designed to provide significant improvements to performance, bandwidth, power efficiency, scalability and flexibility, according to Cisco. 

Cisco said the first first generation of the chip, Q100, surpassed the 10 Tbps routing milestone for network bandwidth.

The Silicon One architecture will be the foundation of Cisco's routing product roadmap for the next decade, the company said. Long term, Cisco's aim is to support future applications and services that will deploy once the 5G era materializes.

Meanwhile, Cisco also said Silicon One will integrate into its new 8000 series carrier class routers, designed for webscale companies and service providers operating networks for 5G, AI and Internet of Things applications. The 8000 series, which is optimized for 400G, will reduce the cost of building and operating these mass scale networks, Cisco said. 

The new series is powered by Cisco's new IOS XR7 operating system, which is yet another piece Cisco's future tech strategy. The operating system will provide faster download speeds and security improvements, Cisco said. 

Cisco noted that it's currently working with Comcast and NTT Communications on ongoing deployments and trials of the Cisco 8000 series. 

In addition to the silicon, Cisco also outlined its focus on the optics space. As port rates increase from 100G to 400G, optics become a larger portion of the cost to build and operate internet infrastructure. To account for that, Cisco said its qualification program tests its optics and non-Cisco optics to comply with industry standards, and invests organically to make sure that its router and switch ports rates continue to increase. 

Cisco also announced plans to offer flexible consumption models for Silicon One that were first established with its optics portfolio, followed by the disaggregation of the Cisco IOS XR7 software.

Overall, this strategy outlined by Cisco is one of the company's biggest in the last five years, said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

"I see this potentially solving many customer problems through custom ASIC silicon as it's one architecture for many networking use cases which translates to a focused software platform, not three or four," said Moorhead. "Cisco will have to prove this one silicon architecture can scale up and down, but that's where the 8000 Series comes into play. It will likely provide problems for Broadcom, Arista and Juniper who operate in this space with networking gear and ASIC chips."

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