My name is Marcos Jimena, Technical Solutions Architect based in Madrid, and when asked if I could present on 15th of November at the Layer ONE Conference in Athens, I was not convinced that I was the right person for the job. I’m currently leading Software Defined solutions for Enterprise Networks in EMEAR, helping customers and partners in their digital transformation. My work depends on the cabling infrastructure, but I wasn’t sure what I could bring to the table for an event with speakers from top physical infrastructure companies like Panduit and Commscope.
But then I spoke with Peter Jones, Distinguished Engineer at Cisco and main author of the content I was asked to present.
“Remember Cisco does not just build networks, architectures, hardware or software—but SOLUTIONS, helping customers to adopt innovation to make them more competitive and ready for the future. Solutions can only happen when innovating in the full stack, from App to ASIC, including cabling and optics to interconnect user, devices and Apps. Our solutions depend on having a strong foundation underneath us.”
I understood the benefits to my customers of developing our own programmable ASIC (UADP). In addition to security, streaming telemetry and rich analytics, it’s flexible enough to evolve with and support the needs of business on the journey to Intent- based networking(IBN).
“Our job is to make sure we are ready with technology and product when the customer is ready to adopt.”
Integrating UADP in all our Catalyst 9000 switching portfolio, Cisco has built a unique and homogenous architecture, with common feature set, software versions and operating system.
Q: How is possible to get a programmable ASIC and why did we do it? Let’s have Peter share more details:
A: We were replacing the bestselling switch on the planet, and we knew that the pace of change in the network was increasing. Rather than bet on a specific technology to win, we built a system that could adapt to the changing needs of the enterprise. We looked at some use cases, worked out what basic functions we needed, and made the functions as generic as possible. For instance, VXLAN did not exist when we defined UADP, but we added it as part of SDA after we shipped.
When I started digging into the material, I was really impressed by how the Ethernet community is paying more attention than ever (at least that’s my perception) to customers’ needs and building “adoptable” technologies. They are pausing and looking at what customers did invest in and their exact business and transformation needs.
The changes we see in enterprise networks (e.g. 802.11n -> 802.11ac -> Wi-Fi 6) drive demand for higher bandwidth. In an ideal world, we could roll out new cabling infrastructure to support these needs, but that’s not where we are.
As you can see below, even looking out to 2021, it’s expected that the bulk of the new installs will be Cat 5e/6, so we can’t rely on Cat6A to get us out of trouble. It’s similar for fiber, with MMF dominating the installed base.
Being able to re-use physical cabling infrastructure is a massive enabler to deploy the new speeds without cabling “rip & replace”. The Ethernet community recognized this, and is moving from the “10 times the speed, 3 times the price” philosophy to “what works”.
If I need more than 1G in access over copper, what about a x2 or x5 speed with mGig (aka 802.3bz or NBASE-T) over the installed Cat5e/6 without a disruptive rebuild? Now that you plan to grow in x 2.5/5G in access, shouldn’t your 10G uplinks increase speed accordingly? What about more than 2.5X speed increase reusing your pair of fibers? -> 25G (no 40G MPO. Yoohoo!). Cisco saw this need coming and worked with the rest of the industry to have technology ready at the right time.
What’s the result? 2.5/5G BASE-T and 25G fiber are expected to be the big growth area we will see.
Q: Key standards (802.3bz, 802.3cc) got done in short order (e.g., 2 years). Peter, is that normal, and how did you get there so quickly?
A: I find that standards work is all about clarity and compromise. It’s easy to get stuck if everyone advocates for their own position and treat it as a zero-sum game. On the other hand, if you go in with a clear vision of what you need for the end user, focus on that instead of a particular solution and engage with the different interest groups, you can get to the end sooner.
I’ve been in Cisco for more than 20 years. I’ve lived the merging of switching and routing technologies, the integration of Voice into Ethernet/IP and the transition of protocols like SNA, Appletalk, Decnet, TokenRing, ISDN…into Ethernet/IP…
I could not believe while I was preparing this session, I was introduced to 10Mb/s Single Pair Ethernet (SPE), and how it presents the opportunity to enable a new big transition happening in the Building Automation/IOT space. They could evolve from disparate systems, multiple communication protocols and proprietary solutions to Ethernet and the TCP/IP stack where innovation and standards are again at the service of customer needs.
Q: Peter, do you see the building automation industry today as an early version of IT systems?
A: When I started in networking, everyone had their own physical layers and protocol stacks, and thought that they were key assets. Over time, almost all of them faded way, and we are left with the TCP/IP stack over Ethernet, Wi-Fi and mobile data. Building and Industrial automation still have the huge diversity on physical layers and protocol stacks, but I think they will follow the path IT took.
When I was asked if I could present on 15th of November at the Layer ONE Conference in Athens, and being a Software-Define Access sales guy, I realized how important hardware is for our customers in a Software-Defined World, and how relevant Cisco’s presence can be in such events. I could not imagine what a great experience it was going to be, how much I was going to learn, and how much talent and innovation capacity Cisco still has.
Learn more about intent-based networking.
For further information or details on any of the topics covered in this interview, please reach out to:
Marcos Jimena – firstname.lastname@example.org
Read Peter’s Obsessing Over Adoptability story