It has been two years since we started shipping our cloud-scale networking products.  The Cisco NCS 5500 Series was specifically designed to be a scalable, low-power consumption, and cost-optimized 100G routing platform, with a path to 400G. The NCS 5500 product family is built to meet the massive bandwidth and operational needs of service providers in the most capital and operational-efficient manner.

I am excited to share the widespread adoption of NCS 5500 Series across Service Provider, Cloud, Enterprise and Public-Sector market segments. More than 250 customers have chosen this platform, and we have shipped over 200,000 ports of 100GE spanning many thousands of systems.

Here is a snapshot of what some of our global customers had to say in recent news releases with Cisco about the advantages of the platform:

“SoftBank keeps focusing on improving service quality and enhancing the reliability and agility of the network while reducing costs. Cisco’s advanced network technologies and support have allowed us to establish the next-generation mobile IP core network platform that meets bandwidth demand. We expect Cisco’s continued support and cooperation for providing services that lead the Japanese market.”
Keiichi Makizono, Senior Vice President, SoftBank Corporation

“Our work with Cisco on OTI supports the further evolution of our network, allowing us to cope with huge traffic growth and improve the reach of our network.”
Jean-Luc Vuillemin, Senior Vice President, Orange International Networks

“We are focused on providing customers with world-class, high-bandwidth connectivity services. Our investment in Cisco not only delivers 100Gbps connectivity, but we are able to automate the provision of services to meet the exacting demands of our customers and enable businesses of all sizes to future-proof their connectivity.”
Rajiv Datta, CTO, COLT

“We needed a future-proof networking platform to support high-density 100G interfaces with optimized power consumption to deliver ultra-broadband connections. With the Cisco NCS 5500 platform, we are getting the scale and power efficiency we were looking for and are reaping the benefits of a seamless and unified software fabric, powered by Cisco IOS XR to accelerate our time to market and streamline adoption of new services.”
Marco Arioli, Senior Manager of Network Engineering, Fastweb 

“We are building a widespread and efficient network to speed broadband adoption across Italy. We are deploying Cisco NCS 5500 in our national Points of Presence to give us the performance and high-density of 100GE interfaces with lower power consumption, and a rich set of YANG data models that are essential to advanced network programmability.”

Domenico Angotti, Head of Engineering, Open Fiber

“Telecom and cloud operators are evolving their network architectures and operations to more efficiently handle network traffic growth and traffic pattern changes. In particular, metro, peering, and interconnect use cases are driving demand for infrastructure that offers an entirely different approach to network design, scalability, and economics compared to legacy platforms. We see this architectural shift as major opportunity for router vendors, and Cisco is leveraging its hardware and software expertise to position the NCS 5500 Series for this opportunity.”

Shin Umeda, Vice President, Dell’Oro Group

Our NCS 5500 Portfolio

Since its introduction in November 2015, the NCS 5500 product line has expanded and now offers multiple form factors giving more consumption flexibility to our customers.

  • Three modular chassis – 4, 8 and 16 slots
  • Seven fixed chassis – either 1 or 2 RU
  • A set of line cards supporting up to 36x 100GE ports and port flexibility to support 1GE, 10GE, 40GE and 100GE transceivers, plus support for 10G, 100G, 150G and 200G IPoDWDM ports.

At Cisco, we are investing in both merchant and in-house silicon to provide our customers with the best balance across performance, density, and power consumption, resulting in optimized cost per bit platforms.

For the Cisco NCS 5500 Series, the choice was made to use merchant silicon forwarding ASICs to address high-scale WAN and aggregation networks’ bandwidth needs.

Over time, we have expanded the scope of use cases supported by the NCS 5500 family and the roles these platforms play in our customers’ networks, at times necessitating augmentation of the capabilities offered by the merchant silicon ASIC. As an example, we are offering a set of line cards that can scale to support up to 4M FIB entries. This very large memory space enables the use of the NCS 5500 in multiple use-cases, from access and aggregation to core and peering. Moreover, the IOS XR brings many innovations in the management of these resources (e.g., optimizing the programming speed, the organization of routes, labels, adjacencies, access-list entries, and so on).

Use Cases


Internet traffic keeps on growing, fueled by ever increasing video consumption.  This is causing some challenges to maintain a superior customer experience. When designing their peering networks to deliver the traffic to consumers and services, content providers are looking for:

  • Network Simplification – simple networks are easier to build and easier to operate. As networks scale to handle traffic growth, the level of network complexity must remain flat. A fabric architecture with reduced control-plane elements and feature sets enhance stability and availability.
  • Network Efficiency – third party Internet peering locations usually come with constraints on space, power, and cooling. High-density, lower environmental footprint devices are critical to handling more traffic without exceeding the capabilities of a facility.

The Cisco NCS5500 platform is ideal for edge peer termination, given its high-density, large RIB and FIB scale, buffering capability, and software feature set. It is also space and power efficient with a 1RU fixed form factor or single modular line card supporting up to 4M IPv4 routes in. A fabric architecture can scale to support tens of terabits of capacity in a single rack for large peering deployments. Fixed chassis are ideal for incrementally building a peering edge fabric, as these efficient high-density building blocks can be rapidly deployed as needed without installing a large footprint of devices day one. Deployments needing more capacity or interface flexibility to extend peering can utilize the four-slot or eight-slot modular chassis.

In addition, the NCS 5500 benefits from an industry-leading IOS XR BGP, Netflow, and ACL feature-set that enables Cisco, in partnership with vendors such as Arbor Networks, to deliver DDoS attack mitigation capabilities. Using Netflow and BGP, platforms such as Arbor Peakflow monitor the network ingress points to build a baseline for network behavior and traffic patterns, then perform ongoing monitoring to detect anomalies and flag them as potential attacks. In case of attack, the mechanisms create an effective diversion and re-injection path leveraging BGP Flowspec and using ACL Based Forwarding to steer traffic.


The NCS 5500 Series represents an exciting new paradigm in Core routing with exceptional scalability, reliability, environmentally conscious design, incredible flexibility, and an attractive price-to-performance benchmark.

The NCS 5500 Series offers industry-leading density of routed 100GE ports for high-scale Core along with high performance forwarding and the lowest power consumption (up to 57.6Tbps in just 21RU at ~0.25W/Gbps).

The NCS 5500 modular platform is based on Cisco’s innovative “orthogonal” chassis design that eliminates the need for a mid-plane in a modular chassis. In most traditional modular platform designs, a back-plane or mid-plane provide connectivity between the line cards and fabric modules. This eliminates the need for a mid-plane and provides advantages such as compact chassis design, higher availability (due to no back-plane or mid-plane acting as a single point of failure), efficient airflow, and optimized cooling – particularly for higher speed optical transceivers.

The NCS 5504, 5508, and 5516 are highly reliable and resilient platforms – based on redundant route processors, system controllers, fabric modules, fan trays and power supplies – and support a range of line card options.


 The Cisco Visual Network Index™ predicts a change in traffic patterns as content and peering move to the edge of the network—metro-delivered traffic will grow faster than core-delivered traffic and will account for 35 percent of total end-user traffic by 2021, up from 22 percent in 2016.

This traffic growth is also driven by next generation technologies such as 5G for mobile, Remote PHY for cable, and Carrier Ethernet evolution. The service provider network of the future will not just provide exponentially higher bandwidth at lower operating costs but will also be capable of enabling new applications such as pervasive mobile broadband, massive IoT, tactile Internet, smart cities, and virtual reality.

NCS 5500 Series routers are designed for cost-effective delivery of these next generation services. These routers are ideal for aggregation roles given their high density, scale options, flexible interface support (1/10/25/40/100G), compact form factor, low power consumption, and support of industry-leading MACsec encryption. They combine a comprehensive feature set of Layer 2, IP, MPLS, and segment routing transport for advanced L2VPN, L3VPN, EVPN and multicast services along with mobile features such as synchronous Ethernet (SyncE) and IEEE-1588 PTP for a dense converged aggregation platform.

The upcoming Cisco NCS 55A2 router and new Modular Port Adaptor (MPA) provide cost effective 100G and 200G IPoDWDM capability, collapsing network layers by tightly integrating DWDM interfaces with the routing platform, thereby helping customers to increase operational efficiency by simplifying management and accelerating service delivery. This IPoDWDM solution further reduces transport elements enabling our customers’ migration from 10G to 100G or 200G in Metro/Aggregation networks, while supporting advanced features and dramatically reducing operating expenses and capital cost.

Software Innovations

The NCS 5500 Series supports two key market-leading software innovations to help service providers simplify their network architecture – Segment Routing (SR) and Ethernet VPN (EVPN).

Segment Routing has established itself as the undisputed networking technology, enabling the network to differentiate the way it delivers applications with unmatched simplicity and scalability. Without any need to maintain states in the network, Segment Routing finally makes traffic engineering implementation scalable, enabling end-to-end application control. This is the power of a Segment Routing unified network fabric.

EVPN introduces a new unified control plane for Ethernet services delivery. With EVPN, service providers can meet evolving demands for higher speeds, sophisticated Quality of Service (QoS) and guaranteed Service Level Agreements (SLAs). EVPN can support the requirements driven by new applications in a way that existing technologies cannot. Having one single control plane extending from Data Center to Metro to WAN brings simplification to the networking stack.

Automation Readiness

The NCS 5500 Series provides customers with a set of software capabilities aimed at facilitating networking devices’ programmability and automation.

Advanced Telemetry pushes a large volume of mission-critical network data at a very high frequency, in an automation-friendly format, with less load on the network. It provides deep insights into the real-time operation of the network. Event-driven operational data can also be streamed by monitoring specific network state changes for thorough analysis and subsequent actions.

Application Hosting lets customers leverage their own tools and utilities to complement IOS XR foundations.

Open APIs play a key role in transforming network operations.

  • The Management API leverages an extensive set of YANG data models to make configuration programmatic. Programmers do not need to become YANG experts to get started and can choose among multiple programming languages – Python, C++ or GO. The rich built-in data validation mechanism helps speed up adoption.
  • The Service Layer API (SL API) offers a scalable and convenient integration point to build/extend a device’s control plane functionality. This way, you can add your own intelligence on top of the IOS XR proven infrastructure for rapid network innovation.


As more and more devices connect to the network, the attack surface gets bigger and security can no longer be ignored. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to security threats, but security enforcement needs to start at the network infrastructure level.

At the hardware level, line cards with MACsec chipsets provide traffic encryption capabilities and are complimented with advanced security features in IOS XR (such as ACL fragment matching, LPTS, Netflow/IPFIX, Lawful Intercept, BGP Flowspec and many more) to help prevent security threats, including denial of service, intrusion, and man-in-the-middle, masquerading.

I’m also happy to share that the Cisco NCS 5500 Series has lately achieved Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS 140-2) compliance for use in government departments and regulated industries (such as financial and health-care institutions).


The Cisco NCS 5500 Series platforms establish themselves as leading platforms in Cisco Service Provider’s routing portfolio and I’m thrilled with the upcoming innovations that will undoubtedly drive up customer adoption.


Sumeet Arora

SVP Engineering

Core Software Group - US