The growing dependence on the internet is changing the way people and businesses interact. Over these past two years, the rapid adoption of remote work, health, and education has accelerated the need to provide digital experiences. Now, organizations are seeking to create trusted hybrid workplaces that deliver collaborative and engaging experiences for their customers and employees.

At the same time, organizations are looking to move with greater speed and agility to deliver cloud-connected applications and services. More than ever before, the network has become fundamental to customer experiences and your brand. And the choices we make today about our networks will have a long-lasting impact on the way we connect, secure, and automate in the future.

Optics are central to network connectivity

As network traffic continues to increase, optical is the only type of technology that can deliver the network capacity organizations require across the distances needed to provide the connected experiences their customers expect. Moreover, optical connections will help prepare for innovations that transmit information in ways that will fundamentally transform the network architectures that connect everyone.

Pluggable optical transceivers, which convert high-speed electrical signals into optical signals, enable high data-rate transmission between servers, switches, and routers connected with fiber optic cables. These pluggable optics allow you to increase your network’s capacity with maximum flexibility. You can select the optical module data rates and fiber lengths to fit your network architecture needs and plug in the optical modules as network requirements grow.

In the past, pluggable optics were somewhat of an “accessory” in network architecture. Today, they’re becoming more sophisticated, complex, and integral to network architecture. Selecting the right pluggable optics can have significant implications on your ability to upgrade network hardware, and the overall reliability (uptime) of your mission-critical network connections.

Optical transceivers are also quickly becoming every network’s biggest capital investment. While advances in silicon (ASICs), have reduced the cost per bit for router/switch ports, and for pluggable optics, the cost per bit for pluggable optics has not come down quite as fast as router/switch ports. As a result, pluggable optics represent an increasing percentage of the total hardware cost. For example, at 10G, optics represented about 10 percent of the total hardware cost of a data center network. As we progress to 400G and beyond, that equation flips and optics begin to represent more than half of the total hardware cost.

Figure 1. Optics contribution to hardware spend increases with data rate

Why it’s important to understand how optics work in your network

Cisco provides the industry’s most comprehensive set of networking platforms to address a variety of applications across campus, enterprise, data center, and service provider networks. To connect all these network devices to fiber optics infrastructure, we offer an extensive portfolio of pluggable optical transceivers spanning multiple form factors, reaches, and speeds, which are qualified across the largest portfolio of routers, switches, and servers in the industry. So, whether it’s connecting data centers, the cloud, servers, routers, or switches, no one knows how optics work in your network better than we do, and we make the most of your network investments.

We ensure you get the highest quality optical transceivers with stringent test, qualification, and validation of optical modules for any network architecture. No matter where you plug in, even across ports from different vendors, we ensure standards compliance, cross-platform compatibility, and optical module interoperability. Cisco tests and verifies optical, electrical, and mechanical design for every optical module, and as a result, our pluggable optical transceivers offer the performance and reliability you can count on.

A leader in sustainability, we set industry standards by using circular economy principles in design and sustainability principles in sourcing. For example, Cisco optics are designed to sustain the highest possible temperatures, enabling you to lower the fan speed within your system and reduce overall power consumption. And by 2025, 100 percent of our new products will incorporate circular design principles.

We continually develop leading-edge solutions for optical performance, helping you to free up resources and enable your own future-ready, fast, and reliable connectivity. Over the past 10 years we’ve spent more than $6 billion on inorganic investments, including our acquisitions of Lightwire, Luxtera, and Acacia. Our deep and unrivaled commitment to silicon, optics, and software investments makes accelerated innovation possible.

You can rely on Cisco optics to provide peace of mind at the heart of your network to elevate your customer experiences and accelerate your business. Take a few minutes to examine our broad portfolio of Cisco optics to meet every need across your campus, enterprise, data center, or transport networks.

Discover more about the capabilities of Cisco optics. Read our ebook:

Accelerate Your Business with Cisco Optics



Bill Gartner

Senior Vice President/GM

Optical Systems & Optics Group