As a citizen of the world and the father of two young boys, I am acutely aware of the long-term effects of global climate change. I wake up every day thinking about what we can do to alter our path and minimize climate change. In my personal life, I’ve made changes to reduce my carbon footprint, which is great, but I want to do more. I’d like to make a difference in my professional life too.
One of the great things about working for an industry-leading company like Cisco is the opportunity to make this kind of change. As a leading supplier of critical technology to data center customers, Cisco can positively impact electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Why is Reducing Consumption So Important?
In 2018, data centers were estimated to have consumed 205 TWh/yr of electricity worldwide, up from 194 TWh/yr in 2010. Over this time period of relatively modest increases in energy consumption, traffic through data centers has increased 5-6X. Several competing forces are at work. Internet traffic is increasing as broadband and wireless speeds increase, enabling ubiquitous high-definition video streaming and all the services of the mobile app economy. Internet traffic is also increasing as businesses move IT from internal networks onto cloud services. On the other hand, because of scaling effects and higher equipment utilization, cloud-based data centers are inherently more energy-efficient than separate enterprise facilities, while also having more advanced and efficient facilities design, operation, and installed equipment.
Because of the increasing demand for cloud services, power efficiency continues to be a big customer ask. Hyperscale service providers, who operate the world’s largest data centers, are among these customers. These customer data centers are among the most efficient in the world, achieving Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) ratios less than 1.11 versus an industry average of 1.67. (PUE is a measure of data center energy efficiency: the ratio of total facility energy compared to the energy used by just the compute, storage, and networking IT equipment. If a data center used no net energy for lighting cooling and other facility uses, its PUE would be 1.0)
Even with a PUE of 1.0, our customers are still very interested in IT equipment energy consumption. Further increases in data center throughput are constrained by the total amount of power that a data center facility has available. As a result, hyperscale providers who want to deploy higher bandwidth systems to accommodate continually increasing traffic have no choice but to look for systems with even better power efficiency.
Changing the Power Consumption Paradigm
Although we’ve made significant technology advances in optics, silicon, and systems design over the years, the limiting factor in building new, higher capacity systems is efficiently managing the power required to cool down active components.
To break this barrier with Cisco Silicon One, we knew a different approach was required, challenging every assumption, and laying the groundwork for systems that could deliver a quantum leap in capacity and power efficiency.
When Cisco released the NCS 6008 in 2014, designing a 10Tbps system required as many as 2,300+ distinct chips – 50 NPUs, 50 fabric interfaces, and 1750 DRAM (to name a few) – assembled into 58 pieces of hardware inside a 48RU chassis. If you’re not familiar with RUs, 48RU is the same size as basketball Hall-of-Famer, Shaquille O’Neal! And a system this size has large power requirements, consuming nearly 96,630 kWh of electricity per year, about the annual electricity consumption of 9 typical U.S. houses in 2018.
Now, all this can be done with one chip – the Cisco Silicon One, reducing the physical size of the system from 48 RU to 1 RU. Moore’s law states that the number of transistors in a chip doubles every two years, leading to a doubling of density in that same time period. The level of advancement with Silicon One is out-pacing beyond Moore’s Law by an impressive 3x.
The Cisco 8201, our new 1RU fixed system, based on a single Cisco Silicon One Q100 device, provides 10.8Tb/s of network bandwidth while using only 415W of power, a whopping 163x increase in power efficiency over our 100G ASR 9000 systems shipped in 2012. The Cisco 8818 modular routing system, which provides 260Tb/s of network bandwidth, is 86% more power-efficient than the NCS 6008 using the 2T line-cards, and 89% more power-efficient than the ASR 9000 product families using the 8x100G line-cards. Our goal in advancing power efficiency doesn’t stop with the silicon architecture. We captured gains across the entire system, for example, we were able to decrease the power required for memory in the data plane (per Gbit) by a staggering 98%.
These new systems also have a positive impact on the environment with their reduced transport footprint. Previous systems required 10 pallets of equipment shipped that weighed 2,000 lbs. (or 900 kg) and had a footprint 570 ft3 (or 16 m3); now, we ship one box that weighs 32 lbs. (or 14.5kg) and has a transport footprint of 2.8 ft3 (or 0,07 m3). That’s a 62X reduction in shipping weight and a 202X reduction in shipping transport volume. Together, that’s a massive reduction in carbon emissions and packaging; magnifying the environmental impact.
Although just a few months have passed since the launch of the Cisco 8000 series, I can tell you it’s been exciting and rewarding to see some of our major customers already adopt the new systems. This change defines a new era – where we can expect more gains in power efficiency, and at the same time, growth in system capacity to support the Internet for the future.
Personally, working on the Cisco 8000 and the Cisco Silicon One project has been very fulfilling, as an engineer who loves cutting-edge innovation and as a father who wants to help build a better world for his children and future generations.
This is just the beginning of something truly amazing.
Can we have a comparison with other core facing products of Cisco other than just NCS6K ?
Over time we’ll be releasing more and more information about Cisco Silicon One and the Cisco 8000. Stay tuned!
Excellent, Blog , Rakesh ! Thank you!
Thanks Shankar. I’m glad you enjoyed the blog!
Great achievement and wonderful article..keep it coming Rakesh
Excellent Article ! Thanks Much for this info
Thank you Selvam. I appreciate you taking the time to read it
Thanks for awesome article and showing the Capex and environmental impact Silicon One will have.
Glad you enjoyed the blog!
Great article. Whether it is your functional spec (from 2016 ) or this article, the clarity and flow is just amazing. Kudos and keep it coming…
Thank you Paras! I believe that our technology is world class and so trying to explain it in a consumable way is really important.
Why not compare to a platform from 2000? it will look even better 🙂
What is the improvement compared to the Cisco NCS5500 which was introduced 3 years ago?
Interesting to compare apples to apples – An NCS5508 Chassis of 8 line cards of 100G
compared to your 8808, also with 100G line cards to understand if there is any power saving beyond what the silicon process provides
Thanks for your feedback. It’s quite difficult to fairly compare things but we strive to find something that is comparable to BW since when considering total power consumption it’s important to normalize on bandwidth. The NCS5504 is a good idea but obviously it’s BW is higher than a single 8201. But we can populate this with 3×3.6T cards which comes to 10.8T. Using the Cisco Power Calculator it looks like that system comes in in a non-redundant configuration at ~2.8kW. So the Cisco 8201 is about 6.7x more efficient and 7x more dense than the NCS5500 when populating with the 3.6T cards.
The power savings achieved from the Cisco 8200 series is far beyond what a standard silicon process allows. The main power savings comes from a massive aggregation of chips into one device saving all of the power needed for multiple chips to communicate.
This level of efficiency can be seen simply looking at the BW of the silicon. The second highest density routing silicon is 4.8T so connecting two of these back to back gets you to 9.6T. To get to a number of 10.8T you need to use 3 of these chips + 2 fabric elements, or 5 chips in total. As you can imagine this is significantly more power than the Cisco 8201.
Cisco Silicon One aggregates all of that capability into a single piece of silicon, while still having higher performance (PPS) compared to those 5 pieces of silicon, and this is all comparing the same technology node!
Execellent Blog Rakesh ! Please help me undersand , if we have such a huge competative advantage in SilconOne why we need to sell the silicon to our customers. we can sell the complete system that will be much more competative due to the vertical integration in Software & System quality expertise. It will also increase our revenue & Margin !
Great question. We have an amazing technology with Cisco Silicon One and we want to make sure that all of our customers can enjoy this technology regardless of how they want to consume it. We have a great system with the Cisco 8000 and I think a lot of customers will flock to this product for the leading edge silicon, hardware system and the IOS-XR operating systems. But for those who want to buy just the silicon that’s an option too!
A game Changer Innovation by Cisco , amazing work by Rakesh & Team .
Thanks Hermant. The team has done an amazing job with Cisco Silicon One and the Cisco 8000. It’s a super exciting time to be at Cisco!
Thanks Rakesh this information is very valuable. Today our customer top priority to evaluate routing platform is related to power consumption. All the competitive information related to power, will be highly appreciated.
Armando, I’m glad you enjoyed the blog ! I completely agree that power is a critical differentiator in the industry and is now, or soon will be, the leading requirement for deployments. Cisco Silicon One is highly focused on power efficiency as is the Cisco 8000 series. I recently released another blog https://blogs.cisco.com/sp/32x400g-router which might be interesting to you which talks about how to build a 12.8T router with Cisco Silicon One Q200 vs. other silicon on the market. The differences are very stark!
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