Cisco Silicon One: Five Things To Know About Cisco's Plan To Power The 'Internet For The Future'

Cisco is betting big on its so-called "Internet for the Future" strategy. Here's what you should know about its new products and what these announcements means for the market.


Going Big

Cisco Systems is putting its chips on the table -- literally.

The networking giant last week revealed its roadmap for the next decade of networking. In the process, Cisco revealed a major shift in its networking strategy with the introduction of a new networking silicon architecture called Cisco Silicon One and a new high-performance router platform, the Cisco 8000.

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Cisco is betting big on its new strategy, which it is referring to as its plan for the "Internet for the Future." That's because future applications are going to reach beyond what current internet infrastructure can viably support. As such, Cisco has been working on a technology strategy that centers on silicon, optics and software, that will help support customers in an advance digital world, the San Jose, Calif.-based vendor said.

Here's some added color around Cisco's latest strategy and its new products and what these announcements means for the market, channel partners, and end customers.

Cisco Silicon One

In a surprising announcement last week, Cisco revealed that it is entering a brand-new market with the introduction of Cisco Silicon One, its own programable ASIC for high-performance networking.

Cisco said that the new chip will bring performance up to 25 terabits per second and will be available to third-party companies, such as cloud and service providers, looking to add high-performance networking to their infrastructures. The move is laying the foundation for Cisco's long term goal, which is to support future applications and services that will emerge onto the scene once 5G has been widely adopted, according to Cisco.

Cisco 8000 Series carrier class routers

Alongside Silicon One, Cisco also introduced a new high-performance router platform, the Cisco 8000, which is based on Cisco Silicon One and the company's new IOS XR7 networking operating system, and said it is qualifying its networking optics technology for use with Cisco and non-Cisco hosts. Cisco said the router has been in development for the past five years.

Cisco's largest customers have historically been cloud and telecom service providers, but the service provider business has been waning in recent years as these providers focus their efforts on virtualizing their networks. The new technology demonstrates that Cisco hasn't given up on its hyperscale customers, despite its service provider revenue falling 13 percent year over year during Q1 2020, the company's most recent fiscal quarter.

What it means for 5G

Cisco said that the new technology, especially its new Cisco 8000 router platform, will help service providers keep cost down when building out and operating large-scale networks. It will become even more useful as carriers design and build their massive 5G networks, according to Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins.

Many service providers are currently focused on building out consumer-based 5G services, but Cisco believes its service provider segment will improve when the carriers turn to Cisco for help building out their 5G enterprise networks that will require higher throughput for more traffic, which will likely happen by the end of 2021, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said during the company's Q1 2020 earnings call.

“The technology that we brought forward today will enable 5G to realize the potential that has been talked about for the last six or seven years,” Robbins said.

Upending The White-Box Movement

Cisco Silicon One will be available for white-box vendors or hyperscale providers that are designing their own networks -- a first for Cisco. The new technology puts Cisco in competition with silicon players such as Broadcom and Intel, as well as others, such as Arista Networks.

Cisco Silicon One will help businesses build infrastructure that meet the performance requirements of new applications including virtual and augmented reality, high-speed streaming, artificial intelligence, 5G networking, adaptive and predictive cybersecurity, IoT, and others yet to be developed, Cisco said.

The technology is giving the market "clean sheet silicon," or silicon that does not reuse any technology from previous generations, said Jonathan Davidson, senior vice president and general manager of service provider business at Cisco.

"Cisco Silicon One was built to be an architecture with all the features you would expect," Davidson told CRN. "But we also wanted to be power-efficient and compact."

Cisco Silicon One will also be critical in helping the company take on smaller vendors who are nimble and innovative, and are focused on software-defined features that run on any hardware, including white-box gear.

Cisco's Future product roadmap

Cisco's new direction with the introduction of Cisco Silicon One and its so-called "Internet for the Future" strategy is the most ambitious development project the company has ever undertaken, said David Goeckeler, executive vice president and general manager of the networking and security business at Cisco.

“Pushing the boundaries of innovation to the next level — far beyond what we experience today — is critical for the future and we believe silicon, optics and software are the technology levers that will deliver this outcome,” he said. “Cisco’s technology strategy is not about the next-generation of a single product area. We have spent the past several years investing in whole categories of independent technologies that we believe will converge in the future — and ultimately will allow us to solve the hardest problems on the verge of eroding the advancement of digital innovation."