Cisco: Checkmate in One… Cisco Silicon One
The parable of the “second half of the board” is an apt metaphor for the industry to which I have devoted my career. If you’re not familiar with the parable, here’s the gist: The game of chess has been introduced to a king. The king was so delighted that he offered the inventor any reward she desired. The inventor asked to place a single grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard and to double the quantity of rice each week, for each square of the chessboard. The king foolishly agreed, and by the time they crossed the first half of the chessboard, the kingdom was exhausted with rice. If they had reached the last square, the rice would have reached the size of Mount Everest!
Why is this important for networking and why share it now? After more than thirty years of exponential growth in traffic, networks are now crossing the second half of the spectrum. Robust growth continues with no end in sight, and the size and scale of today’s largest networks eclipse that of just five years ago.
As a result, new (and more important) issues have arisen. For example, how can networks grow to colossal sizes and simultaneously increase agility? How to redefine the economics of networking to reduce the cost of ownership? Today, for every dollar spent on network equipment, operators spend five or more dollars each year on operating costs. Energy efficiency, climate impact and greenhouse gas emissions have peaked. And projections show that by 2025, the internet could consume 20% of the world’s electricity. If it were his own country, the Internet would be the fifth largest consumer of energy in the world.
The chess-loving king was short-sighted. Technology leaders must continually anticipate future problems and engage in innovations years in advance. Cisco Silicon One is one of those innovations. Designed specifically to meet the challenges that emerge in the second half of the game, Cisco Silicon One is the engine behind our Cisco 8000 series routers. These platforms are already more than twice as dense (12.8Tbps per NPU). with 19.2Tbps coming soon in the platforms) and more than three times more energy efficient (2.25 Watts / 100G) than any other system available today.
Still, being the king of the mountain over the rest of the industry isn’t the most exciting part. We are very excited about the speed and acceleration that the Cisco Silicon One architecture allows for the future. Historically, new silicon has been released every 3 to 5 years. Different platforms usually used different silicon depending on size, role and functionality. Additional time was required for the operating software to ultimately provide parity and quality of functionality on all platforms. Ironically, innovations always seemed to come with delays. It changes.
In the two years since the launch of Cisco Silicon One, we have released 11 new devices which range from 3.2 Tbps to 25.6 Tbps. Customers can simplify operations, accelerate return on investment, and reduce costs by using a unique silicon strategy that spans network platforms from a 3.2 Tbps high rack switch (TOR) to a modular central router of 259.2 Tbps.
And we are now shipping these technologies in volume. Already, some of the world’s largest network operators, ready for the future, are embracing value. Meta, Microsoft, and Deutsche Telekom are just a few of the customers who have publicly shared their enthusiasm.
Recently another vendor made noise about a head-to-head performance test with our Cisco 8000 series router. It was like a football game where the host team made the rules. , hired the referees, put on a Cisco uniform on a mannequin, then declared herself victorious. It was particularly shocking because I think most tech makers would easily see it through the wrong direction. Unfortunately, you can’t solve engineering problems with marketing. Customers know right away when tests are designed to make the supplier look good rather than look good on the customer.
To be fair, I get a little confused when other vendors focus on legacy SKUs that have little relevance for future deployments. For example, very few jurisdictions identify four million routes as vital. When customers need them, Cisco offers additional platforms designed to support ten million routes. And achieve mythical 64-byte sustained packet line rates across a system? Everyone already knows that this never happens in a real network because video (large payloads) is the dominant traffic. Swapping density or energy efficiency to meet some fancy metrics has negative implications and comes with real costs to customers.
New times. New problems. New solutions. Cisco builds the Internet for the future. To verify.
Massive scale, energy efficiency, agility and longevity. Going forward, these are the measures that matter most, as they have a direct impact on the networking economy. Checkmate.