With a new wave of bandwidth-intensive and latency-sensitive services (5G, IoT, and AR/VR) on the way, communication service providers need to ready their access and aggregation networks – expanding the footprint of current IP networks while scaling up capacity and reducing overall power consumption.

To assist communication service providers with the evolution to the next-gen access and aggregation networks, we are excited to announce a few key additions to the NCS 500 portfolio.

NCS 540 Small Density Routers

The more service providers roll out devices to the network edge or far-edge, the more constraints they have to manage, including floor space, power, and security. Compact and lower power consumption devices are critical to delivering the capacity service providers desperately need. At Cisco, we’ve developed new hardware that can help communication service providers meet tomorrow’s challenges and future-proof their network.

We started with the network operating system (NOS). Our new Cisco IOS XR is simple, modern, and trustworthy. It simplifies the provisioning and configuration of a router while improving operational flexibility with software modularity and enhanced security. And embedded in the physical hardware, our tamper-resistant Trust Anchor Module controls the entire secure boot process, from start to finish, establishing a complete chain of trust.

In fact, the redesigned IOS XR brings much more simplification, flexibility, control, and trustworthiness to the edge of the network. With its optimized memory and CPU footprints, it can be deployed on smaller routers at the edges of the network.

To augment the existing NCS 500 portfolio, we’ve developed the smallest IOS XR based routers ever – the Cisco NCS 540 Small Density Routers. These high-performance routers support the technologies needed to build limited footprint 5G networks, including timing and synchronization, power consumption, and environmental requirements.

  • Timing and synchronization – The NCS 540 delivers tighter time and phase synchronization and high-accuracy clocking along with GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) capabilities needed for 5G networks
  • Power consumption – The NCS 540 has optimized watts per bit grounded on smarter mechanical components, such as fans that change speed with altitude.
  • Environmental – The NCS 540 has I-Temp with conformal coating to harden the device against humidity and dust

As more endpoints with low-latency connectivity connect to the network, service providers are deploying more devices closer to end-users in locations that may be less secure and less environmentally friendly. The new Cisco NCS 540 Small Density routers address these needs and can support many different deployment scenarios and use cases for 5G networks.

Three sub-100G network bandwidth, compact 1RU systems are available:

  • N540X-6Z18G supports a front plate of 78 Gbps with 6 x 10GE/GE + 18 x 1GE interfaces
  • N540X-8Z16G supports a front plate of 104 Gbps with 8 x 10GE/GE + 4 x 1GE (SFP) + 4 x 1GE (RJ45) + 8 x 1GE (SFP) or 16 x 1GE (cSFP)
  • N540X-4Z14G2Q supports a front plate of 104 Gbps with 2 x 25GE/10GE/GE + 4 x 10GE/GE + 10 x 1GE (SFP) + 4 x 1GE Combo SFP/RJ45

The ultra-compact, high-performance NCS 540

Another addition to the portfolio is the new NCS 540 Large Density routers (N540-24Q8L2DD-SYS), a compact 1RU router with QSFP-DD ports, which support pluggable coherent optics.

With 100G/200G/400G ZR/OpenZR+ pluggable coherent optics onboard, the ultra-compact NCS 540 disrupts the status quo, changing network economics and simplifying the way networks get built.

And with the Cisco Routed Optical Networking solution, the once separate IP and optical network layers can be unified by integrating 400G optics into the IP infrastructure – making a hop-by-hop architecture possible and eliminating the need for network ROADMs.

The new NCS 540 Large Density router incorporates SFP56 ports capable of supporting 50GE optics, providing service providers with a cost-effective transport option because they share the same form factor as the existing SFP28/SFP+/SFP.

Supporting an array of speeds including 2×400/400/100G + 8×50/25/10G and 2×400/200/100G, the new NCS 540 Large Density router is environmentally hardened, with a modular and redundant PSU. Like the NCS 540 Small Density router, the new NCS 540 Large Density router includes the same Trust Anchor Module along with security capabilities supported by IOS XR. The NCS 540 Large Density router also supports MACsec and offers Class C timing capabilities suitable for 5G deployment.

Augmenting NCS 560 Capabilities

As an aggregation device, the NCS 560 systems provide a high level of redundancy, and when deployed with a Route Switch Processor 4 (RSP4), it supports intra-chassis hardware redundancy for all hardware components and software redundancy with In-Service Software Upgrade (ISSU) support. Together these capabilities provide the following benefits:

  • Minimal service disruption. You can upgrade the IOS XR software with less than 50 milliseconds of packet loss
  • Greater operational efficiency with simplified upgrade operations
  • Risk mitigation as fixes for critical issues can be applied quickly with minimal service disruption

We’ve also added two new interface modules to the NCS 560 that support pluggable coherent optics. As an integral part of our new Routed Optical Networking solution, the new Interface modules on the NCS-560 support longer transmission distances and contribute to collapsing the IP and optical network layers into a simpler IP infrastructure:

Moreover, the multi-rate 10G/25G interface supports increased density for xHaul/MBH deployments, aggregating many cell site routers.

  • N560-IMA-8Q/4L: supporting 8x10GE (SFP+) /25GE SFP28 ports or 4x50GE SFP56 ports

Leveraging IOS XR

With modern programmability tooling that simplifies network operations and drives OpEx savings, Cisco IOS XR provides significant benefits including:

  • Zero Touch Provisioning – secure device onboarding through template-driven ZTP scripts based on YANG
  • Golden ISO – bundling necessary packages, custom scripts, and applications into one single ISO image for consistency across remote deployments
  • RPM format with metadata to resolve package dependencies
  • YDK – YANG Development Kit in Python, C++, Go
  • Easy integration with community tools like Chef, Puppet, and Ansible
  • Modern tooling with protocols such as gRPC, gNMI, and protobuf

And on an end-to-end IP network, IOS XR lets you collect and process near real-time telemetry data to respond to congestion or other network events before they become a major issue. Network operations teams can now take early action, achieve faster remediation, and ensure services’ SLAs are guaranteed to result in a better end-user experience.

Together, the new Cisco NCS540 and enhanced NCS560 Series are a complete solution for 5G xhaul (fronthaul, midhaul, and backhaul) transport, enabling communication service providers to seamlessly deliver advanced wireline services.

The Innovations do not stop here. Look for more announcements on the Cisco IOS XR based Access Routing portfolio as we enable our customers across industries to generate new revenue streams and empower communities to close the digital divide!


Kevin Wollenweber

SVP/GM, Cisco Networking

Data Center and Provider Connectivity