The ocean has plenty of waves but catching the perfect one requires serious thought and planning since we know water is never predictable. Surfers need to time it right with precision and use a balance of strength and endurance to paddle, pop up, and ride the wave without wiping out. Having the skills and the right board makes all the difference for an ultimate surfing experience.

At Cisco, we’ve been catching many waves over the years. Waves of innovation, that is. Years ago, we believed the networking industry wave would move in a particular direction. This belief drove our innovations in many technologies and intellectual property in-house, but also our investments to acquire market-leading companies (such as Skyport, Acacia, Leaba, and Sedona) for coherent optics, routing and switching silicon, and multi-layer automation.

As a result, we were able to catch the convergence wave, where market-moving transitions, such as Routed Optical Networking and Converged Transport, redefine cost structures and operational paradigms for our customers. The good news is that we are building momentum with this wave and seeing the industry validating our vision, such as with pluggable coherent optics and the shifts in Metro networking.

With our best-of-breed organic and acquired investments, our surfboards have gotten much stronger and purpose-built to take on new, exciting waves that we have long spotted but are only now getting attention from others.

Looking at the horizon ahead, not only do we see the aforementioned trends continuing to play in our favor, but there is another wave of innovation and inflection points to capture in areas such as web, metro, and 5G.


We have made a long-term bet to capture the transitions in web. For instance, one such transition is driven by artificial intelligence and deep learning applications. Ethernet is driving a new era with the following needs:

  • Favorable cost-bandwidth at 400G, 800G, and beyond
  • Open and standards-based
  • Mass-scale economics, supply-chain, and ecosystems
  • Convergence of machine learning (ML) and network stacks

With hyperscalers, one size does not fit all. The same use case might have different needs that require flexible design from both a system and software perspective. Hardware and software flexibility are unique value propositions offered by Cisco Silicon One and Cisco 8000. Different operating systems like IOS XR, SONiC, and FBOSS can now run on the same hardware substrate. This flexibility allows Cisco to readily meet our customers in the environments they choose.

Another prominent transition deals with the advent of tunable, long reach optics like ZR and ZR+. Pluggable optics further simplifies and optimizes network architecture by converging IP and Optical layers. Innovation of this pedigree caters to problems that exist today and can also be the foundation for the networks of tomorrow.

This thought and product leadership has enabled Cisco to be a trusted partner for a variety of use cases across multiple hyperscale customers.

Metro Evolution

The Internet is shifting from being a network-of-networks to becoming a network-of-data centers. As a result, applications are becoming more dynamic –requiring differentiated user experiences and optimizing distributed compute and decomposed network resources in places where power and space are constrained.

This trend has driven the evolution of our routing portfolio with software capabilities and compact form-factors. As we look to the future, the trend will require even more accelerated innovation.

First, the ecosystem around connectivity and its participants is changing. For example, in the middle-mile space, new disruptive market entrants and cloud providers are making inroads and causing added competitive pressure. New revenue streams are expected to come from emerging services hosted at regional, edge, and far edge locations. As a result, the center of gravity and point of service delivery is moving further out, closer to the users, driving very different architectural and operational incentives.

Second, we also recognize that broadband requirements have evolved. Hybrid work is here to stay. As a result, investments are being made in infrastructure to close the digital divide. Subscribers now consume higher bandwidths with different traffic distribution characteristics. The new architecture must be distributed with control and user plane separation (CUPS). Standard specifications and protocols such as TR-459, bring the innovations needed to disrupt the dynamics and economies of broadband delivery. In combination with Cisco Edge Cloud for Content Delivery, we can reduce the cost per subscriber, increase quality, and create new revenue opportunities for our customers.

5G Transport

Extensive investments in 5G are happening globally. For instance, US operators have spent around $100B on mid-band 5G spectrum auctions. We are only beginning to experience what 5G has to offer. Significant opportunities exist for CSPs to create new business models, innovative new revenue streams, and optimize operations for efficiency.

Fixed wireless access (FWA) represents the 5G industry’s first big success. The Internet of Things (IoT) promises a new future of digital transformation. As OT collaborates with IT, new levels of productivity are waiting to be unleashed. However, IoT will introduce a massive number of new devices and added complexity. Ultra-low latency requirements for real-time applications will drive an architecture shift towards regional data centers and distributed compute to deliver quality experiences.

We continue to build the future of 5G with visionary customers such as Dish Wireless. Dish is the fourth largest national 5G provider in the US, and the first O-RAN-based Greenfield network in the country. They are aggressively pursuing a cloud-native strategy with container-based applications for their mobile network. Cisco is the first in the industry to deliver hybrid-cloud solutions (User plane forwarding & RAN centralized unit) hosted on AWS for the Dish network.

Ride the wave!

The trends in web, metro, and 5G transport are ideally met with a simple, unified network architecture. Common software, such as IOS XR and Crosswork Network Automation are critical pieces to drive operational simplicity. Our Converged SDN Transport solution across Metro, Core, and Data Centers is continuously evolving. We are committed to relentless simplification, automation, and multi-dimensional convergence to help our customers reduce costs, grow revenue, and mitigate risk.

While some in the industry may have started entering the water and watching the waves, our cloud-ready architecture allows Cisco to meet our customers where they are, in the line-up to surf the barrel.

Stay tuned to hear more on our perspectives in the Web, Metro Evolution, and 5G Transport space.

Build one simplified network to change the economics of the
network and deliver connected experiences at massive scale with

Converged SDN Transport


Kevin Wollenweber

SVP/GM, Cisco Networking

Data Center and Provider Connectivity