Friday, July 7, 2017

Cisco's intent-based, intuitive networking launch – Part 1

This week Cisco outlined its vision for Intent-based Networking. Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins described the unveiling as the most significant announcement from the company in perhaps the last five years and as the 'foundation for networking' for the next 30 years. So, what exactly is it?

Simply put, it is a vision. It is not a technology nor a network architecture, it is a vision of machine learning that will be applied to make networks more agile, more efficient and more secure. It leverages Cisco's Digital Network Architecture (DNA), which extends its data centre-based, policy-driven Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) technology throughout the entire network: from campus to branch, wired to wireless, core to edge. Cisco has been talking about its DNA for the past 15 months or so. It would be easy to assume that all the Cisco DNA slide ware presented to date has simply been a marketing exercise to keep market analysts busy, but this would be a wrong assumption. The five key principles of Cisco DNA have already been used to differentiate its Nexus 9000 core data centre switches. These five guiding principles for Cisco DNA will now do the same for core systems in enterprise networks:

·         Virtualise everything to give organisations freedom of choice to run any service anywhere, independent of the underlying platform – physical or virtual, on premise or in the cloud.

·         Designed for automation to make networks and services on those networks easy to deploy, manage and maintain, fundamentally changing the approach to network management.

·         Pervasive analytics to provide insights on the operation of the network, IT infrastructure and the business – information that only the network can provide.

·         Service management delivered from the cloud to unify policy and orchestration across the network, enabling the agility of cloud with the security and control of on premises solutions.

·         Open, extensible and programmable at every layer, integrating Cisco and 3rd party technology, open API's and a developer platform, to support a rich ecosystem of network-enabled applications.

At a press event this week in San Francisco, Cisco executives kicked off this new intent-based networking vision by launching several key products: DNA Center, a centralised management dashboard with an intent-based approach for full visibility and context across the entire network, and new Intent-based network infrastructure products including the Catalyst 9000 switching portfolio.

Custom Cisco silicon + onboard Intel x86 powers the switches

It used to be said in that 'silicon is destiny', at least that was a saying in Silicon Valley until Marc Andreessen came along and proclaimed 'software will eat the world'. In more recent years, the conventional wisdom became that merchant silicon was good enough and fast enough, with software to be the key differentiator, enabling valued-added features. In the enterprise networking space, Broadcom's merchant Ethernet switching silicon has pretty much dominated the market. The company offers several switching silicon product families, covering everything from low-end access switches to the highest-capacity, openly programmable data centre core switches.

For this new Catalyst 9000 Series product family Cisco developed its own programmable silicon. The chipset is officially known as the Cisco Unified Access Data Plane (UADP) 2.0 ASIC. Next-generation features include a programmable pipeline, microengine capabilities, and template-based, configurable allocation of Layer 2 and Layer 3 forwarding, access control lists (ACLs), and QoS entries. A first version Cisco Unified Access Data Plane ASIC has previously powered the Catalyst 3850 Unified Access Switch with a built-in WLAN controller and the Cisco 5760 Unified Access WLAN Controller appliance, which have been shipping for several years.

With the new Cisco UADP 2.0 ASIC entering production, it is worth looking at the data sheets for the first Catalyst platforms in which it will be deployed. The newly-announced Catalyst 9K product line up includes the Catalyst 9500 Series 40 Gbit/s switch for the enterprise campus. Three variants will be offered:  24 x 40 Gigabit Ethernet ports, 12 x 40 Gigabit Ethernet ports, or 40 x 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. A mix of QSFP and SFP+ ports are supported. Key specifications include:

·         Intel 2.4 GHz x86 CPU with up to 120 GB of USB 3.0 SSD storage for container-based application hosting.

·         Up to 960 Gbit/s switching capacity (IPv4) with up to 1440 Mpps of throughput.

·         Up to 24 nonblocking 40 Gigabit Ethernet QSFP ports.

·         Platinum-rated AC power supplies.

·         Up to 512,000 Flexible NetFlow (FNF) entries in hardware.

·         Up to 32 MB of shared buffer per ASIC.

·         Up to 64,000 routing entries for high-end campus access and aggregation deployments.

·         IPv6 support in hardware, providing wire-rate forwarding for IPv6 networks.

·         Dual-stack support for IPv4/v6 and dynamic hardware forwarding table allocations, for ease of IPv4-to-IPv6 migration.

·         Support for both static and dynamic NAT and Port Address Translation (PAT).

·         Scalable routing (IPv4, IPv6, and multicast) tables and Layer 2 tables.

·         Open IOS-XE, described as a completely new rewrite of IOS for the enterprise with support for model-driven programmability, on-box Python scripting, streaming telemetry, container-based application hosting, and patching for critical bug fixes; the OS also has built-in defences to protect against runtime attacks.

·         StackWise virtual technology, a network system virtualisation technology for scalability.

The Catalyst 9400 Series, positioned as the mainstream, next generation of the industry’s most widely deployed enterprise switching platform. The Catalyst 9400 includes modular access switches built for security, IoT and the cloud, offering high availability, support up to 8 Tbit/s, SD-Access capabilities. Two versions of the 9400 are initially offered: a 10-slot chassis offering up 384 ports, 480 Gbit/s per slot; or a 7-slot chassis offering up to 240 ports, 480 Gbit/s per slot. Both support MPLS L2 and L3 VPNs, MVPN, NAT, SD-Access, Cisco StackWise, and N+N/N+1 redundancy.

A Cisco Catalyst 9400 Supervisor Engine line card is used to power the chassis. On the card is the same Cisco Unified Access Dataplane (UADP) 2.0 ASIC, along with an Intel 2.4 GHz x86 CPU with up to 960 GB of SATA SSD local storage for container based application hosting. Line rate hardware-based Flexible NetFlow (FNF) can process up to 384,000 application flows. Significantly, the Catalyst 9400 switches form the foundation building block for Cisco's enterprise SD-Access, which includes: policy-based automation from edge to cloud; segmentation and micro-segmentation, with predictable performance and scalability; automation through the Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller - Enterprise Module (APIC-EM); policy enforcement through the Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE).

The Catalyst 9300 Series, positioned as Cisco's next generation stackable switching platform, features eighteen models initially. The three top configurations are: 24 ports of 1/2.5/5/10 Gbit/s; 48 ports of 1 Gbit/s SFP for data, PoE+, Cisco UPOE; 24 ports of 1 Gbit/s SFP for data, PoE+, Cisco UPOE.


As with other members of the Catalyst 9000 series, these switches are powered by the new UADP 2.0 ASIC with programmable pipeline and microengine capabilities. The Cisco ASIC is complemented by an Intel x86 CPU complex with 8 GB memory, and 16 GB of flash and external USB 3.0 SSD pluggable storage slot to host containers and run third-party applications and scripts natively within the switch. Cisco also said the Catalyst 9300 Series is optimised for high-density 802.11ac Wave2.

Mellanox intros Spectrum-2 200/400 GBE data centre switch

Mellanox Technologies announced the Spectrum-2, a scalable 200 and 400 Gbit/s Open Ethernet switch solution designed to enable increased data centre scalability and lower operational costs through improved power efficiency.

Spectrum-2 also provides enhanced programmability and optimised routing capabilities for building efficient Ethernet-based compute and storage infrastructures.

Mellanox's Spectrum-2 provides leading Ethernet connectivity for up to 16 ports of 400 Gigabit Ethernet, 32 ports of 200 Gigabit Ethernet, 64 ports of 100 Gigabit Ethernet and 128 ports of 50 and 25 Gigabit Ethernet, and offers enhancements including increased flexibility and port density for a range of switch platforms optimised for cloud, hyperscale, enterprise data centre, big data, artificial intelligence, financial and storage applications.

Spectrum-2 is designed to enable IT managers to optimise their network for specific customer requirements. The solution implements a complete set of the network protocols within the switch ASIC efficiently, providing users with the functionality required out-of-box. Additionally, Spectrum-2 includes a flexible parser and packet modifier which can be programmed to process new protocols as they emerge in the future.

Mellanox stated that Spectrum-2 is the first 400/200 Gigabit Ethernet switch to provide adaptive routing and load balancing while guaranteeing zero packet loss and unconditional port performance for predictable network operation. The solution also supports double the data capacity while providing latency of 300 nanoseconds, claimed to be 1.4 times less than alternative offerings. It is designed to provide the foundation for Ethernet storage fabrics for connecting the next generation of Flash based storage platforms.

Mellanox noted that Spectrum-2 extends the capabilities of its first generation Spectrum switch, which is now deployed in thousands of data centres. Spectrum enables IT managers to efficiently implement 10 Gbit/s and higher infrastructures and to economically migrate to 25, 50 and 100 Gbit/s speeds.


The new Spectrum-2 maintains the same API as Spectrum for porting software onto the ASIC via the Open SDK/SAI API or Linux upstream driver (Switchdev), and supports standard network operating systems and interfaces including Cumulus Linux, SONIC and standard Linux distributions. It also supports telemetry capabilities including the latest in-band network telemetry standard, enabling visibility into the network and monitoring, diagnosis and analysis of operations.


China Telecom and Ericsson launch open IoT platform

China Telecom and Ericsson announced the launch of the China Telecom IoT Open Platform, a global connection management platform that will support China's One Belt One Road strategy and speed the deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and services.

The China Telecom IoT Open Platform is designed to enable enterprises to deploy, control and scale the management of IoT devices through partnerships. Using the platform, enterprise customers will be able to integrate their business processes with the managed connectivity service offered by China Telecom to create a reliable IoT solutions. Leveraging the platform, China Telecom and its customers will be able to drive the digital transformation of industries in China and beyond.

The China Telecom IoT Open Platform is based on Ericsson's Device Connection Platform, a global, unified platform that is used by multiple enterprise customers across various industries to manage IoT connection services worldwide. The platform provides enterprise customers with reliable connectivity with service-level agreements and a common, unified view of devices and access networks.

Ericsson’s Device Connection Platform was launched in 2012 and currently supports more than 25 operators and over 2,000 enterprise customers as part of its IoT Accelerator platform. Ericsson is also collaborating with the Bridge Alliance and the Global M2M Association to support the provision of a seamless customer experience with global coverage for IoT applications.

Recently, Ericsson and China Mobile formed a strategic agreement to cooperate on IoT, signing a separate Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Ericsson and China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI) covering R&D for Cloud RAN and IoT.

With regards to IoT, China Mobile was to use the Ericsson Device Connectivity Platform to streamline the process for provisioning, as well as deploy services to capitalise on new business opportunities.



  • Earlier this year, China Telecom and Orange Business Services extended their existing strategic partnership to cover IoT space during the launch event of eSurfing on the Silk Road in Shanghai. Through the expanded agreement, multinational customers of both China Telecom and Orange will be able to deploy IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) services across each other's networks.


EE, Qualcomm and Sony Demo Gigabit LTE

Qualcomm Technologies, a subsidiary of Qualcomm, UK mobile operator EE and Sony Mobile Communications have showcased what they claim is Europe’s first commercial Gigabit LTE/4G mobile device and network.

During the event, held at the Wembley Stadium in London, the companies demonstrated live upload speeds over the EE 4G network of 110 Mbit/s and download speeds of 750 Mbit/s, which are claimed to be more than twice the speed of the UK's fastest commercial available fibre broadband offering.

The demonstration also featured what is believed to be Europe's first commercial gigabit LTE mobile device, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, which is based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform.

During the event, the companies showcased Gigabit LTE capabilities in four real-world use cases: streaming 4K HDR10 content from Amazon Prime; downloading of large files via Google Drive; download of music/video files for offline use; and a network simulation designed to showcase the network-wide benefits of deploying Gigabit LTE.

It was noted that EE, the mobile operation of BT, has activated the latest upgrades to its 4G network in Cardiff, Wales and in London's Tech City, and will be rolling out the technology to more major cities during 2017 and 2018. EE stated that real-world speeds of up to 428 Mbit/s have been demonstrated in Cardiff city centre to mark the launch of Sony’s flagship Xperia XZ Premium smartphone.

EE noted that it was the first network in the UK to support Cat 9 mobile devices in September 2016, and is extending its leading position by being the first operator to support the latest Cat 16 mobile devices with Gigabit LTE.

Announced at MWC 2017 and launched in June, Sony's Xperia XZ Premium is claimed to be the first Gigabit LTE-enabled smartphone. The device, powered by the Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform, is also the first smartphone to feature a 4K HDR display. The Gigabit LTE performance is enabled by the Snapdragon X16 LTE modem integrated into the Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform.

Gigabit LTE leverages LTE Advanced features including 4 x 4 MIMO, 3 x CA (3 carrier aggregation) and 256QAM higher order modulation. Gigabit LTE capability will provide a key element of future 5G mobile networks by providing the high-speed coverage layer that will co-exist and interwork with 5G networks.


IDT unveils clock generator/jitter attenuator

Integrated Device Technology (IDT) announced a new highly-programmable clock generator and jitter attenuator IC offering less than 200 fs of phase noise and designed to provide system design margin for 10 Gbit/s interfaces in wireline and wireless communication networks.

IDT noted that the increased phase noise margin can lower system design constraints and help engineers to minimise bit error rates (BER) while also reducing system costs.

The new IDT 8T49N240 product is the latest member of IDT's third-generation Universal Frequency Translator (UFT) family. The clock generator and jitter attenuator device is able to produce most common output frequencies from almost any input frequency and targets 10 Gbit/s or multi-lane 40/100 Gbit/s timing applications where 300 fs of phase noise is typically the maximum acceptable level permitted at physical ports. The device is also suitable for 25/28 Gbit/s interfaces.

The 200 fs phase noise specification of the 8T49N240 product therefore provides noise margin to enable engineers to both simplify their clock tree designs and utilise lower cost PCBs.

The 8T49N240 is complemented by IDT's proven Timing Commander software, a free, intuitive program designed to allow users to configure the device by clicking on blocks, entering desired values and sending the configuration to the device. IDT also offers a web-based tool that allows customers to quickly generate custom part numbers to match their specific configurations.


The 8T49N240 product features a 6 x 6 mm package footprint that requires less PCB area than other comparable solutions. The 8T49N240 and evaluations boards are available immediately.


Ncell Axiata selects ZTE network virtualisation

ZTE announced it is strengthening collaboration with Ncell Axiata in the field of network virtualizsation.

Under the agreement, Ncell Axiata in Nepala company of Malaysia's Axiata Group, a major telecoms group serving around 320 million customers in 10 Asian markets, is leveraging ZTE's network virtualisation technologies to develop a virtual subscriber data management (vSDM) platform.

Ncell Axiata's vSDM platform is based on the latest virtualisation technology and features an advanced distributed architecture, hierarchical storage and multi-level protection, as well as cloud capabilities.

Implementation of the new vSDM platform will allow Ncell Axiata to evolve its SDM platform from a traditional Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (ATCA) to a virtualised architecture. This transition will enable Ncell Axiata to reduce expenditure on hardware and operations and establish a more intelligent, flexible and reliable telecommunications network. The new vSDM platform will also help accelerate deployment and enhance the end user experience.

The companies stated that they plan to continue to expand their collaboration to enable Ncell Axiata to implement network and digital transformation leveraging ZTE's solutions and technologies to help support the further development of Nepal's telecommunications industry.



  • ZTE recently announced that it had implemented a vSDM platform for Banglalink, a digital communications service provider in Bangladesh and indirect subsidiary of VEON. ZTE stated that it had migrated 60 million legacy users and launched what it claimed was the largest vSDM platform implemented.
  • The vSDM platform installed by ZTE uses advanced virtualisation technology to enable hardware and software decoupling and is based on generic commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware to allow flexible on-demand deployment and help reduce investment and operation and maintenance (O&M) costs. The solution is also designed to support network and service evolution for future applications such as 5G and IoT.
  • In April 2017, ZTE and VEON announced a global framework agreement covering network function virtualisation infrastructure (NFVI) and virtual evolved packet core (vEPC), as a part of which they planned to cooperate on the development of virtualisation technology.

China Telecom Shanghai Research Institute joins HomeGrid Forum

The HomeGrid Forum announced that China Telecom Shanghai Research Institute, the research organisation within the China Telecom, has become its latest promoter member, building on work conducted by the institute on G.hn-related projects over the past three years.

The forum noted that China Telecom joins other HomeGrid members from Asia as the Asian, and particularly the Chinese markets, continue to lead the global technology industry.

China Telecom selected G.hn as its home networking technology of choice and China Telecom Shanghai announced the first public tender request for G.hn devices earlier in 2017, marking the commencement of G.hn commercial deployments by carriers in China.

In addition, it was stated that China Telecom Shanghai Research Institute has expressed an interest in establishing a new HomeGrid Forum Certification facility at its labs in Shanghai. The forum noted that currently silicon and system vendors are able to certify their products at facilities in Shenzhen or Taipei.

The HomeGrid Forum works with member companies to ensure interoperability between vendors and products and to verify that standards are met through a compliance and interoperability testing program which leads to silicon and system certification.

HomeGrid Forum (HGF) is an industry alliance that supports cooperation between technology companies, silicon vendors, system manufacturers and service providers to promote the G.hn gigabit home networking technology that is based on ITU-T standards. The forum has over 70 members and aims to enable a single unified, multi-sourced networking technology for coax, copper pair, powerline and plastic optical fibre while continuing to support existing HomePNA deployments and the transition to G.hn.

Regarding the G.hn technology, Donna Yasay, president of HomeGrid Forum, said, "When combined with other technologies, such as wireless, home mesh networking and Ethernet, G.hn creates a hybrid that can extend connectivity further than other products on the market… G.hn is the backbone for the kind of seamless connectivity that is now in demand around the world".


Teleste and Antronix form JV to deliver gigabit cable access

Antronix of Cranbury, New Jersey, a designer and manufacturer of broadband products in the U.S., and Finland-based Teleste, a provider of video and broadband technologies and related services in Europe, announced a joint venture through which they will offer next generation gigabit cable access network solutions to North American broadband markets.

The new joint venture, whose majority shares are owned by Teleste, will operate under the name Teleste Intercept and combine the two companies' next generation products and access network technologies.

Based at the Antronix offices in Cranbury, the enterprise will seek to leverage both Teleste's expertise and established position in delivering intelligent, DOCSIS 3.1-compliant network technologies across the European cable broadband market and Antronix's Intercept eHFC line of products. The combined product line is intended to offer the latest data delivery technology in a hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) end-to-end network platform.

With an established position in the cable industry, Teleste is a leading supplier of access nodes and 1.2 GHz network solutions. Since 2013, Teleste has been developing a distributed architecture featuring the first Remote PHY nodes to be launched in Europe.

In the initial phase, the joint venture will offer Teleste's DOCSIS 3.1-compliant intelligent optical nodes, headend optics and Remote PHY devices, configured to address local requirements, to the North American market. The solutions will be available alongside Antronix's line of optical products and multi-gigabit eHFC solutions.

The combined product portfolio is intended to provide a comprehensive line-up, spanning fibre deep to distributed access architectures and eHFC FTTT brownfield migration solutions. Antronix's core branded products, which include indoor and mainline passives, multi-taps, residential amplifiers and point-of-entry filters, will remain a part of the Antronix portfolio.

The company noted that a key feature of Teleste's broadband nodes is the combination of hardware and software that makes the devices self-adjusting and remotely controllable using its network management tools. This concept is designed to deliver cost efficiency and an enhanced consumer experience by improving service availability. The use of intelligence can help operators improve their operations and enhance the customer help desk experience.

Launched in 2015, Antronix Intercept eHFC is an xPON DOCSIS hybrid FTTT technology designed to enable higher data throughput at the distribution point. The solution is interoperable and complementary with DOCSIS and Remote PHY network architectures. Intercept provides cable operators with an economic solution for brownfield migration to deliver gigabit services.


The Intercept eHFC Lancet Series optical tap supports high frequency DOCSIS 3.1 performance up to 1,784 MHz, enabling full spectrum DOCSIS 3.1 functionality for distributed access architectures, fibre deep or traditional HFC access network platforms.


See also