By now it’s probably clear to you how much value I place on power efficiency in the silicon and the systems that we build. I’ve written about it several times, most recently in “Making an eco-friendly network with Cisco Silicon One.”

It’s clear to me that power is the key metric for networking today (and into the future) for a few basic reasons:

  • Power delivery and thermal cooling limit what we can build in systems today
  • Customers pay a significant amount of money for power provisioning and delivery, and at times this can prohibit what equipment is deployed
  • It’s our moral imperative to do everything possible to minimize CO2 emissions and help curb global warming

With Cisco Silicon One, we have created technology at the lowest level of silicon architecture to enable a fundamentally new way of building routing and web scale switching silicon. Our goal is a massive improvement in bandwidth, programmability, buffering, scale, and power efficiency.

This technological lead is so vast that its advantages are sometimes hard to grasp. With the release of the Q200 device, Cisco can offer customers a single piece of silicon featuring 12.8Tbps of routing bandwidth at a powerpoint well below what others can offer.

Not all Silicon is Created Equal

Enabling a fixed system with a single piece of silicon is fundamental to improving the latency, rack-units, cost and power efficiency of the solution. All other routing silicon on the market today requires between two and 10 pieces of silicon to enable the same bandwidth system.

It’s intuitive that using one device versus two to 10 devices can change the cost structure of the system in a significant way, but what’s equally impressive is that with Cisco Silicon One we believe you can build an entire 12.8Tbps routing system in under 390 watts, enabling up to 71 percent reduction in power use compared to other silicon.


Interestingly, for the first time in history the power consumed in the data plane routing silicon is now lower than the power consumed by the 400G optics. Think about that for a second…all the complexity of a router’s packet forwarding, buffering, and scheduling now takes less power than sending light down a fiber. Amazing!



In the end, power consumption translates to a few key impacts to customers:

  • Facilities need to be provisioned to deliver the power to the systems
  • Facilities need to be built to remove the heat generated by the systems

Power Efficiency Saves Money

The efficiency with which a facility can deliver the power to the systems and remove the heat is known as Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE). The most advanced web scale data centers in the world are approaching a PUE of 1.1 (which is equivalent to a 10 percent ‘tax’ to deliver the power and cool the heat generated), while some older service provider facilities have PUEs above 3.0. A value of 1.7 PUE is a reasonable estimate for a modern service provider facility in the United States.

Running an analysis of the cost to build and deploy the infrastructure for these four systems over a 10-year life at a colocation facility in the United States with a PUE of 1.7 shows the dramatic cost savings offered to end customers who deploy Cisco Silicon One fixed-box systems.

Cisco Silicon One can enable a savings of up to $143,000 or a 67 percent reduction in deployment costs over a 10-year period for a single 12.8Tbps router. The advantages that Cisco Silicon One Q200 brings compared to other silicon on the market are dramatic.

For more information, read my full analysis and watch my video below.