I guess it was a happy coincidence that the day I travelled to Cisco Live in Barcelona, LinkedIn informed the world that I had been with Cisco for 23 years. Before that,  I was in the ‘Ciscoverse’ for around 5 years working as a customer and partner.

The notification made me reflect not only on how long I have been at Cisco (I did have a brief sojourn at a start-up) but also the consistency of innovation and leadership this company has provided in its almost 35-year history

Around 1987, I first worked with Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). Up until that point my networking experience had been based on Novell ( remember them ? ) as a means to connect printers to users. I recall venting at the complexity of IP with its host tables and subnet masks. To this day I am haunted by the statement this “…will never catch on. It’s too hard!”

But it did catch on. From the early days of multiprotocol routing, switching and then the move towards IP telephony, Cisco has been consistently at the heart of innovation in and around IP and the telecoms market, disrupting and improving the way we deliver many services that seemed to be here for good.

I’ve seen plenty of changes… I was there when the “packet heads” took over from the “bell heads.” As well as when MPLS and IP telephony rose, and broadband transformed the lives of consumers all over the world. Looking back, I was lucky to be involved in the projects that mattered.

All those years ago I recall attending my first “Networkers” in Monte Carlo and being blown away at the size and scale of the ecosystem. During that time, we had just launched the 7000 series router and the 4500-m ( which seems to have been lost in the mists of time).

The ecosystem was made up of our value-added resellers (VAR’s), management tooling vendors and education and certification companies. Cisco was praised for its ecosystem and partner led go-to market. I still firmly believe that the story would have been very different had we not had the attitude and approach that is still deep within the DNA of this company.

Now I am back from Barcelona, and have had a chance to reflect on what I saw; the biggest announcements were the launch of the Internet for the Future including the 8000 Series Router, Silicon One and  IOS XR7 network operating system. The 8000 series router is close to my heart as a Service Provider guy. It’s mind-blowing to see how just how far we have come as an industry. From launching the GSR 12000 series in 1998, supporting an eye watering 622 mbps per slot and with only 16 slots to now having 400G optimized platforms that scale from 10.8 Tbps to 260 Tbps and design flexibility with up to 648 port configurations that support 100G or 400G throughput with the Cisco 8000 Series Routers.

I’m sure we will never be hearing ‘We will never use that it’s too big!” again. I won’t name him, but those were the words of a very senior IP architect at one large carrier. They then went on to deploy a very large network of GSR 12000.

Once the GSR was shipping in volume, we started to develop the CRS 1 (“HFR” as it was comically known) which provided 40 gbps per slot and the ability to interconnect chassis via fibre between backplanes. This innovation allowed horizontal scale which had never been seen before.

Fast forward to today and you will find that the market has evolved very quickly thanks to the explosion of apps, video, devices. With the 8000 Series Routers capable of 14.4 terabits per slot, it’s incredible to think that this capability is here today and is already being deployed by our biggest customers. Those customers are very different from those we served in the previous generations. We are serving them in different ways with complete systems including Silicon One or software only capabilities. Once again Cisco evolves to meet the challenges our customers face.

Then there is the ecosystem, what was once a few booths outside the plenary session is now a full-on trade show. Partners come from every industry to make up an ecosystem that is now way beyond just the network. The world of solutions was just that, from traditional VAR’s to vertical industry partners in the IoT world. I was amazed and the length and depth of what the Cisco ecosystem touches and how what started as a networking company has played a huge part in shaping society as we know it.

What Cisco delivers may not be the sexy virtual assistant that reads you the news as it controls your home lighting and soundscape (although we have our own AI capability in the collaboration market.) Let’s not forget that the technology on which we increasingly rely on in our daily lives relies on a network. Those billions of devices need to talk to applications and each other and that’s where Cisco come in. That’s why we need capabilities like Silicon One.

I guess this “IP” thing really has caught on, and the information superhighway that it relies on continues to expand and scale into a future that I suspect very few people could reliably predict.

Let’s see what Cisco Live 2021 bring us.



Dominic Elliott

Chief Technology Officer

Global Service Provider - Northern Europe