Billions of daily users. Millions of servers. Tens of thousands of application requests hitting those platforms every second. How do you keep up with the networking needs for a data center footprint like that? How do you even begin to map out what meeting those needs should look like?

For most businesses, questions like these are purely theoretical, a thought experiment you might contemplate to build more scalable infrastructure. For the world’s webscale companies though—Google, Microsoft, Facebook, a handful of others like them—these questions need concrete answers every day. And millions of companies, hundreds of billions of dollars worth of business, depend on getting them right.

It’s why, when it comes to addressing the highly specialized routing and switching requirements of their hyperscale data centers, these companies are turning to Cisco as a trusted partner to tackle the toughest mass-scale networking challenges. As the big webscalers update their data centers to power the transformational Internet services of the next decade, they’ll be using Cisco technology in ways they haven’t in the past.

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A Different Class of Business Problems

Cisco has always been an important partner for webscale companies, just as we are with thousands of large enterprises and service providers worldwide. Because of our rapidly evolving customer base, we are continuously reexamining the infrastructures to best meet those demands.

A global hyperscale data center footprint can encompass millions of servers, tens of thousands of routers and switches and optical interconnects. The uniqueness of these environments, and the unusual problems that need to be solved there, require a highly specialized approach. Webscalers need a model that emphasizes simplicity, agility, and sustainability at a magnitude that just doesn’t translate to other kinds of companies. So much so that many webscalers just developed their own platforms—including operations, automation, and supply chain—to address these unique needs.

Now, Cisco is poised to take on a much bigger role in hyperscale data center infrastructure. Our Internet for the Future announcement last December introduced a new generation of networking innovations that will benefit every business in the coming years—webscalers, enterprises, and service providers alike. Equally important, we unveiled new consumption models that give companies the freedom to take advantage of these innovations in new ways.

Meeting a New Generation of Webscale Needs

As they prepare for the coming decade, webscalers are updating their data centers to power a new class of Internet applications: advanced AI services, autonomous vehicles, smart factories, augmented reality, a million other dynamic, personalized experiences. To make all this possible, they need faster semiconductors, higher-capacity networks, optical interconnects that can carry more data, farther. They need the agility to reconfigure infrastructure in novel ways as needs change. More than anything else, they need technology that’s simple: simple to operate, simple to manage, simple to scale. And, behind it all, they want to achieve these objectives in socially responsible, environmentally sustainable ways.

Cisco is poised to help webscale companies achieve all of this and more. Working with Cisco, these companies will realize:

· Unprecedented scale: New Cisco technologies dramatically increase the speed and capacity that can be achieved in large-scale data centers. In the near future, webscalers, service providers, and enterprises will use the Cisco Silicon One™ network processing unit (NPU) to reach hundreds of Terabits per second (Tbps) of routing capacity. At the same time, new Cisco optics innovations will push data center interconnects beyond 400G into terabit speeds. With that kind of scale, these companies will better meet the needs of current customers while laying a foundation for Internet experiences we can’t even imagine yet.

New business agility: For the first time, companies can consume industry-leading Cisco technology as discrete components, and pick and choose the combination that best suits their needs. If webscalers want to bring the capacity and performance of the Cisco Silicon One™ NPU to their own custom hardware, they can. If they want to use third-party hardware or NPUs with Cisco software and/or silicon photonics, they can do that too. Using our open APIs and standardized interfaces, they can plug Cisco components into custom management frameworks to automate millions of devices. (Microsoft, for example, is already doing this, managing Cisco 8000 Series routers SONiC open-source networking software.) And, since these capabilities are backed by Cisco’s global supply chain, these companies can substantially reduce their risk. If they need to ramp up production for a short-term target or respond to a disruption somewhere in their own supply chain, Cisco can quickly deliver whatever they need, wherever they need it.

More sustainable operations: Capacity and performance aren’t the only benefits of new Cisco technologies; they also operate more efficiently, using far less power than previous solutions. The 1RU Cisco 8201 Router, for example, delivers 10.8 Tbps throughput drawing less than 500 Watts. That’s a big deal in any large network. In a high-density webscale data center with thousands of interfaces, it adds up to huge power savings and a major reduction in overall carbon footprint—a key goal for these companies. Microsoft, for example, recently announced its intention to go “carbon negative” by 2030. Cisco technology can play a big role in helping them do it.

Most importantly, webscalers can realize these new capabilities working with a longtime partner they trust. They can continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in hyperscale environments, backed by the world’s largest networking vendor, with a global presence and supply chain, rigorous testing, and broad interoperability.

Collaborating for the Future

It’s a new era, both for Cisco and the webscale companies working with us to shape the Internet of tomorrow. For the billions of people and millions of businesses that will depend on it, the timing couldn’t be better.

Stay tuned for upcoming blogs in this series, where we’ll dive deeper into the ways webscalers are working with Cisco to rewrite the rules for data center agility, sustainability, and scale.



Ben Dawson

Vice President

Cisco Australia and New Zealand