Looking under the hood

It was less than a decade ago when Cisco introduced the revolutionary Nexus 9500 Series family of switches. With the world’s first backplane-free modular design and groundbreaking 40G performance, they were ahead of their time. And they helped pave the path to the ultra-high-performance computing possibilities being realized today.

Many cloud providers, telcos, media conglomerates, and enterprises are now leveraging 400G network uplinks, and some have already set their sights on 800G.

These staggering levels of network performance are the keys to processing massive AI/ML workloads in the cloud, streaming uncompressed 8K video to households around the world, enabling vehicles to become increasingly autonomous, delivering real-time gaming with nanosecond response times, and supporting the growing tidal wave of ultra-bandwidth-intensive applications.

But not all 400G switches are created equally. And just as you would if you were purchasing a high-performance sports car, it’s important to look under the hood.

The engine for every switch is its ASIC

While other network providers continue to use commodity chips, Cisco has been developing custom silicon for Nexus switches since 2014. Creating our own ASIC was the only way to fully realize the promise of software-defined networking and enable advanced capabilities like network segmentation, flexible forwarding, intelligent buffering, and deep telemetry.

What was bleeding-edge at the time is compulsory for the 400G needs of today and 800G plans for tomorrow. And we continue to enhance our custom ASICs to deliver levels of telemetry, encryption, flexibility, and investment protection that aren’t available in any other switches:

Deeper telemetry

Our custom ASICs were designed to provide unparalleled network visibility and insight. While other switches are limited to the capabilities of their (commodity) silicon – typically providing a sample or snapshot of the truth and forcing users to piece together the full picture – Nexus switches provide incredibly deep telemetry. Using Nexus Dashboard Insights, users can see the hop-by-hop path of every packet at line rate. They can observe the behavior of switches and traffic across multiple fabrics in real time. They can quickly see the health of their network fabrics and identify the root cause of issues and anomalies. And they can access granular details as needed.

Better encryption

Do you want the highest performance or the best encryption? That’s the question other 400G switches force you to answer, as they only provide MACsec encryption at lower speeds. Nexus switches don’t require such trade-offs, providing both MACsec and CloudSec encryption for all ports at line rate.

More flexibility

Select switches in the Nexus portfolio now feature Cisco Silicon One, the first unified silicon architecture for web scale, enterprise, and service provider networks. The key term here is unified. Other network providers have different commodity ASICs for different domains, pigeonholing their switches to specific use cases and increasing operational complexity and cost. With Cisco Silicon One, our new Nexus 9800 Series switches can be used across edge and core domains and repurposed as needed, making them the most flexible 400G switches on the market.

Increased investment protection

Nexus switches don’t just protect your data. They also protect your investment. While 800G may seem like a vision of the distant future, look how quickly we leapt from 40G to 400G. Users of the Nexus 9800 Series won’t have to purchase and install new chassis when their performance requirements exceed 400G. They’ll simply need new line cards to make the leap to 800G, which will extend their investment for another decade. Other switches on the market will require forklift replacements – and the disruptions and costs that come with them.

You can learn more about Nexus 400G performance options, specs, and use cases by following the links below in our Resources section.



Learn more about the Cisco Nexus 9800 Series

Nexus 400G performance options: What’s new

Nexus 400G portfolio

Cisco Silicon One


Richard Licon

Principle Technical Marketing, Engineering

Product Management - Competitive Insights