Cisco’s commitment to innovation usually keeps us focused on what’s ahead for industrial networking. New digitization opportunities. New sustainability imperatives. New ways that we can help organizations to achieve strategic goals.

Today, we’re doing something different. We’re looking back and reflecting on how far industrial networking has come.

The beginning

It was 20 years ago—March 3, 2003—that we launched the Cisco Catalyst 2955 Series. It was our first Industrial Ethernet switch designed for use outside traditional IT-managed spaces. With connectivity on the factory floor as our first target, we announced the 2955 Series during National Manufacturing Week. As the press release suggested, we had our eye on opportunities to deploy ruggedized switches in other industries, too—namely, power generation and wastewater treatment environments.

In 2003, we were well known for our enterprise networking solutions—the kinds of products that IT teams deploy in climate-controlled data centers and carpeted offices. As we started showing up at industrial conferences, reactions could often be summed up with this question: What’s Cisco doing here?

What’s Cisco doing here?

The answer: We arrived to support industrial organizations in adopting IP connectivity throughout their operations, along manufacturing lines, inside electric substations, deep inside mines. The past two decades have brought an explosion in the number and variety of applications that IT and operational technology (OT) teams are supporting—often in some of the wettest, dustiest, non–climate-controlled places on Earth.

From the beginning, we’ve worked hard to earn and keep our seat at the table. Today we are a market leader not just in ruggedized switches but in turnkey industrial networking solutions. We are proud to say that our solutions play a key role in promoting a circular economy for a more sustainable future. You’ll find our ruggedized devices in designs for wind turbine and solar farms, as well as infrastructure for managing distributed energy resources and charging electric vehicles. Our gear supports mines that make lithium battery production possible as well as at the battery manufacturing plants themselves. We’ve even increased the sustainability of our own products—by anodizing rather than painting, minimizing the use of harmful chemicals.

We’re equally excited that our solutions are helping to support national security and advance space exploration. You’ll find Cisco’s technologies embedded inside the newest, most sophisticated rockets, tanks, and drones, to name a few assets.

We’re proud of how well our gear has performed over the long haul. With equipment humming along for years inside salt mines, automotive plants, subway stations, and other harsh environments, Cisco Industrial Networking solutions continue to stand the test of time.

We’re constantly working to advance the features and capabilities of our industrial solutions, and we stay true to our core strengths: excellent expertise and consistent products.

We are bringing IT to the physical world

Whether made for use in traditional IT spaces or rugged environments, our products use unique Cisco strengths in their underlying networking technologies. The hardware is built using the Cisco Secure Development Lifecycle, which follows a secure-by-design philosophy from product creation through end of life.

Cisco IoT networking platforms use the same operating system, intelligent network management system, and security applications as those that support some of the largest enterprise networks in the world. IOS XE, Cisco DNA Center, Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE), Cisco Secure Network Analytics (Stealthwatch), and Cisco SecureX not only provide a uniform consistent management and security strategy between enterprise and operations network but also further IT and OT collaboration.

Another important capability that our industrial switches share with their enterprise cousins is the open containerized platform—Cisco IOx—which provides compute resources for running applications within the switches, where data is being generated. Cisco Cyber Vision sensors that run in IOx perform deep packet inspection (DPI) on network traffic in order to identify connected assets, traffic patterns, and potential security vulnerabilities and help to determine policies for network segmentation.

To improve remote access to industrial equipment that is difficult to reach or to reduce travel costs, our products offer Secure Equipment Access (SEA), a standard service that can replace the many proprietary and potentially unsecure access technologies in use today. Cisco Edge Intelligence extracts, transforms, and shares data from connected assets at the IoT edge to multicloud environments and allows intelligent analytical applications to make the right decisions.

Back in 2003, we were excited to be building a presence on factory floors. We were developing strong partnerships and laying the groundwork for expansion across vertical markets. In 2023, we’re proud to look back at what we have built—and to continue playing a part as industrial organizations digitize operations and transform the way the world works.

Now and into the future

As we look to the future, we see clear trends in industrial operations—more use of cloud-based applications, virtualization of control functions, and more artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML)–powered analytics. Software-defined approaches will use software to manage and optimize the entire manufacturing process, including product design, scheduling, supply chain management, quality control, and maintenance. “Digital twin” technology will simulate a product from its design, production, and performance when deployed and optimizes the product and production system before investment in physical prototypes and building of assembly lines.

These uses are possible only through high-performance networking, built-in security, and machine-to-cloud connectivity. I am proud to say that Cisco Industrial Ethernet switches and the rest of our IoT portfolio is gearing up to lead this charge.

Stay tuned as we continue to evolve our portfolio and bring the future to you.

As you consider your priorities for industrial networking, take a closer look at some of our most recent innovations at Cisco Industrial Ethernet Switches, and register for an interactive panel discussion in which will discuss key characteristics of highly capable industrial switching.


Samuel Pasquier

VP, Product Management

Cisco Industrial IoT Networking Portfolio