I recently had the good fortune to spend time with some of our big Service Provider customers. On the way back from my trip, I had time to reflect on the tectonic shifts that will play out in the SP market over the coming years, and how Cisco’s own investment in architectures, systems, silicon, and software uniquely enable our SP customers to overcome their business challenges.

To address the twin challenges of exponential traffic growth and (at best) flat CapEx, our customers are telling us that they need a common architecture to deliver 5G, cable, wireline residential, business, and legacy transport services on a common, automated infrastructure – which we call Converged SDN Transport.

Cisco Converged SDN Transport Infrastructure

The components of Converged SDN Transport architectures include:

  • Systems for high-density, high bandwidth transport, such as our NCS5500 and NCS500
  • Systems for high-value service delivery, such as the ASR9000
  • Intent-based networking that simplifies operations and enables rapid service delivery
  • An end-to-end operational model with advanced automation on top of a common network operating system, such as our Cisco Crosswork and Cisco IOS XR

Thanks to combinatorial improvements in ASIC, optics, and automation technologies, these architectures can lower the cost per bit in significant ways. To find out more about the total cost of ownership benefits, read this insightful White Paper from ACG Research.

A great example comes from Airtel. As part of its project Leap, Airtel built a world-class network ready to deal with the explosive growth in high speed data services that you can only find in a market with more than one billion subscribers. Their architecture is built using Segment Routing transport on the Cisco NCS 5500 and ASR 9000, and our Digital Coherent Optics (DCO) solution that can carry 100/200G IP traffic over distances of up to 80Kms without the need for additional optical equipment.

Speaking of the Cisco NCS 5500, I’m happy to share new capabilities that further improve this platform and the central role it plays in Cisco’s Converged SDN Transport architecture.

NCS 5500 Momentum

First, I couldn’t be more thrilled with the traction the Cisco NCS 5500 is seeing the market. In less than a year, we almost doubled our installed base with more than:

  • 500 customers in production
  • 450,000 100GEs ports installed
  • 19,000 systems deployed

The role of the NCS 5500 as the lead platform in customer 5G architectures was featured at Mobile World Congress:

NCS 5500 400GE Availability

Second, I am happy to announce the availability of 400G capabilities in the NCS 5500 so that customers can prepare to seamlessly deploy higher bandwidth.

Two new line cards will be available during the second half of this calendar year. They will include high-density 400G interface ports with QSFP-DD optics, thus providing operators with readiness for mass-scale networking:

  • A 24-port 400 GE base line card delivering a total bandwidth capacity of 9.6Tbps.
  • An 18-port 400 GE scale line card delivering a total bandwidth capacity of 7.2Tbps, which can also be configured for 200GE/100GE applications.

In addition, and shipping today, we have new fabric cards and fan trays that allow NCS 5500 chassis in live networks to be upgraded and become 400 GE-ready.

These line cards support QSFP-DD, QSFP28 and QSFP+ optics as well as 10 GE, 40 GE, 100 GE, 200 GE, or 400 GE, allowing easy migration to 400.

NCS 5500 Compact 25G/100G

We also have news in our NCS 5500 fixed portfolio. In order to cover a broad set of use cases, we will be releasing a compact 1 RU networking device with dense 25G ports and multiple 100GE uplinks this quarter! The platform is perfectly suited for advanced aggregation roles and WAN connectivity.

NCS 5500 MEF Certification

Finally, I’m thrilled to announce our NCS 5500 platform was officially awarded with MEF 3.0 certification based on Cisco IOS XR release 6.5.x that offers E-LINE, E-LAN, E-Tree, E-Line Access and E-Line Transit services. With this certification under our belt, NCS 5500 platforms can be expanded to an Ethernet aggregation role for mobile backhaul and business/enterprise access.

NCS 5500 Wins the Aegis Graham Bell Innovation Award

With regard to fixed platforms, we continue to see strong adoption of our fixed NCS 5500 portfolio platforms in high-density metro aggregation, mobile backhaul, and long-haul connectivity use cases. Not surprisingly, we recently won the Aegis Graham Bell Innovation Award in the best innovation product category for our fixed-platform NCS 5500 product.

Learn More About the NCS 5500

In my opinion, over the long term, only Cisco has the breadth of investment to deliver architectures built using the cutting edge of technology with the long-term investment protection that Service Providers need for their business lifecycles. The exciting new capabilities we are announcing for the Cisco NCS 5500 today make it an even more amazing solution for Service Provider, Enterprise, Public Sector, and Cloud customers.


Sumeet Arora

SVP Engineering

Core Software Group - US