Cisco brings software-defined networking to carriers

If the Internet is going to be carrying humungous loads of data as more devices are connected, large service providers are going to need a new network infrastructure to support it.
That’s the thinking behind Cisco Systems Inc.’s NCS system, announced Tuesday, which the company said it can converge IP and optical networks to create a fabric for a programmable network that can automatically shift data centre, core edge and optical resources.

The result is service providers can roll out new services faster while reducing network complexity and operating costs.

The NCS (network convergence system) line runs on Cisco’s recently announced nPower X1 integrated network processor with 4 billion transistors on a chip – already used on its CRS-X router – and a virtualized version of its IOS XR operating system.

The NCS’ programmability and virtualization capabilities will let service providers shift to software defined networks (SDN) and network function virtualization, Cisco [Nasdaq: CSCO]  said. When used as part of its service provider architecture, the NCS family can help network operators reduce the total cost of ownership by 45 per cent, while reducing 60 per cent less power.

To start, the line includes three families of devices:

–NCS 6000. The first model is the single-chassis 6008, which has room for eight line cards that can provide up to 8 Tbps full duplex. Each card can handle a mix of 10- 40- or 100 Gbps  interfaces per card. It is available now;
–NCS 4000, which will support 400 Gbps per slot and 6.4 Terabits per system. It will be available in single, back to back and multi-chassis configurations. Available in the first half of next year, it will also support opticdal transport network, dense wavelength division multiplexing
(DWDM), SONET and Ethernet applications;
–NCS 2000, which connects DWDM transport networks at rates of 100 Gbps plus, and supports dynamic network configurability with 96-channel, next-generation intelligent ROADM capabilities. It will include the 6U-sized 2006 chassis which has six slots for service cards, and the 2U-sized 2002 which has two slots.

Three global service providers – Britain’s BSkyB satellite broadcaster, Japanese phone company KDDI and and Australia’s phone company Telstra are early NCS users.

“What they’ve brought is the concept of SDN programmability to the carrier world,” observed Zeus Kerravala, principle of ZK Research. “The real is how programmable are they, and we won’t know until we see them in broader deployments. If they (carriers) use the Cisco ONE framework there should be a fair amount of customization carriers are able to use to create more flexible environments. And all that becomes more important as carriers want to be able to offer more services faster than in the past.”

For example, he said, thanks to virtualization carriers might be able to offer “try before you buy” services.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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