Monday, July 10, 2017

Cisco's intent-based, intuitive networking launch – Part 2

An interesting aspect of Cisco's new strategic direction with its Intent-based enterprise networking is that the company has made a major bet on developing proprietary ASICs rather than relying on merchant Ethernet switching silicon from Broadcom, Cavium, Barefoot, Innovium or other merchant semiconductor suppliers. There are a number of reasons why the company may have chosen this approach.

First, with Broadcom dominating the market for Ethernet switching silicon, it does not help Cisco's market positioning when many competing vendors have similar switches with matching port counts and speeds. Cisco commands a margin premium and to defend over the long term it may have been necessary to pursue a silicon development program. Second, the costs of developing switching silicon may have declined in relative terms to the market opportunity. Consider that several start-ups, including Barefoot, Innovium and Xpliant (now part of Cavium), gathered sufficient venture funding to attempt entering the market. If the costs were too high, the angel investors would not have taken the risk, so one can assume that large vendors, such as Cisco do have the financial resources to proceed with in-house silicon development. Third, while merchant silicon is becoming more programmable, Cisco may see benefits in a proprietary chipset with APIs for select ecosystem partners.

Cisco's Intent-based networking builds on its Digital Network Architecture (DNA) and its widely-installed Catalyst line of campus, branch and access Ethernet switches.

The new line of Catalyst switches are the 9000-series -- out of sequence compared to previous Catalyst generations, including the 2900 series, 3600, 3800, 4500, 6500 and 6800 series. The 9000-series branding makes sense, however, when considering the company's data centre switches. The Cisco Nexus 9000 series is its flagship data centre switch, so it makes sense that the Catalyst 9000 series be positioned as the flashing enterprise switch.

Comparison with Nexus data centre switching line

Cisco's Nexus data centre switching line also differentiates from the competition using proprietary silicon but powers some models with Broadcom. The latest generation of Nexus switches, announced in March 2016, includes a new Nexus 9000 model based on its custom ASIC and a Nexus 3000 model based on Broadcom's Tomahawk silicon. In terms of Nexus network architecture and software programmability, Cisco is supporting three choices: its own, full-bore Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) architecture, running on the APIC controller in its Nexus 7K and flagship 9K switches, a programmable fabric vision that could also be supported on the new Nexus 3000 switches with Broadcom silicon, and a lighter programmable network architecture running on any of the Nexus switches and featuring NX-OS enhancements for devops, automation and segment routing.

Performance is a key argument for the custom silicon. With the new Nexus 9000 switches, Cisco said it will achieve industry-leading performance for 100 Gbit/s, with 25% more non-blocking performance, at 50% the cost of comparable solutions, plus greater reliability and lower power. In addition, Cisco is announcing a new Nexus Fabric Manager that automates the fabric lifecycle management with a point-and-click web interface and offers automated configuration snapshots and rollback. Nexus Fabric Manager builds and self-manages a VXLAN-based fabric, dynamically configuring switches based on simplified user-based actions. An IT manager can fully deploy a VXLAN-based fabric in just three steps, complete with zero touch provisioning, and can upgrade all fabric switches to a new software release in 'four mouse clicks'.

There are no performance comparisons yet for the Unified Access Data Plane (UADP) 2.0 ASIC that powers the new Catalyst 9000 series, but the company has said that it is highly programmable. One example of this flexibility is the unique encrypted traffic analytics that will supported. This capability leverages the power of the ASIC along with Cisco's Talos cyber intelligence and machine learning to analyse metadata traffic patterns. Cisco said this enables the network to identify the fingerprints of known threats even in encrypted traffic, without decrypting it and impacting data privacy. Cisco claims it can detect threats in encrypted traffic with up to 99% accuracy, with less than 0.01% false positives. This capability was developed essentially over the course of several months.

Automation and programmability key themes for switching silicon

Other silicon vendors are pursuing automation and programmability as well. Earlier this month, Broadcom unveiled a new generation of its widely-deployed Trident switching silicon for data centre, enterprise and service provider networks. The new StrataXGS Trident 3 switch family, aimed at networks transitioning to high density 10/25/100 Gigabit Ethernet, is manufactured in 16 nm and designed to support fully programmable packet processing, while achieving significant cost and power efficiency. It builds on Broadcom's widely deployed StrataXGS Trident and Tomahawk switch products, offering fully programmable, line-rate switching. It supports new protocol parsing, processing and editing for Service Function Chaining, network virtualisation and SDN. It offers programmable support for new switch instrumentation capabilities such as in-band and out-of-band network telemetry. The StrataXGS Trident 3 also retains complete functional compatibility to with StrataXGS Trident 2 and Trident 2+ based networks, widely adopted by network equipment manufacturers. The chip supports forwarding databases for L2 switching, L3 routing, label switching and overlay forwarding. Broadcom promises 3xincreased ACL scale to support evolving policy/security requirements.

Barefoot Networks, a start-up based in Palo Alto, California, has garnered considerable attention for its Tofino switching chip which boasts 6.5 Tbit/s of overall capacity, and a strategic investment from Google, as well as engagements with  Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent . Barefoot has said its Tofino silicon, which has been sampling since November 2016, excels for its programmable forwarding plane. Recently, the company disclosed ongoing work with AT&T and SnapRoute to deliver what it believes is the first real-time path and latency visualisation. Utilising Tofino and In-band Network Telemetry (INT), AT&T was able to gain deep insight into the network down to packet-level for the first time to help to address bottlenecks caused by path or latency variation. Barefoot noted it took 6 weeks to develop the visualisation capability before it was deployed into AT&T's production environment carrying live customer traffic over a Washington DC to San Francisco link. Barefoot has also announced a partnership with Taiwan-based network switching equipment firms Edgecore Networks and WNC. As a side note, Barefoot Networks was co-founded by Nick McKeown, a Stanford professor and co-founder of Nicira (acquired by VMware), Martin Izzard, Pat Bosshart and Dan Lenoski VP Engineering.

Inovium is another Silicon Valley based start-up that is making a run at scalable Ethernet silicon for data centres switches. Its TERALYNX is claimed to be the first single switching chip to break the 10 Tbit/s performance barrier. It also offers telemetry, line-rate programmability, the largest on-chip buffers and ultra low-latency. The chip is expected to sample in Q3 2017. Innovium’s TERALYNX promises to include support for 10/25/40/50/100/200/400 Gigabit Ethernet standards. It will deliver 128 ports of 100 Gbit/s, 64 ports of 200 Gbit/s or 32 ports of 400 Gbit/s in a single device. This may make it more suited for data centre switches than campus or branch offices.

Some concluding observations

While Cisco may be going down the path of proprietary silicon for its flagship switching platforms, the many other players in this market segment appear set to benefit from innovations coming from Broadcom and the new merchant silicon suppliers. Arista, in particular, continues to thrive despite the many legal challenges presented by Cisco. Earlier this month, Arista rolled out key enhancements to its R-Series platforms, which are based on Broadcom's Jericho+ switching silicon. The latest Arista R-Series platforms provide over 150 Tbit/s of capacity for switching and routing applications with cloud-driven Arista EOS software technologies including Arista FlexRoute and AlgoMatch. Arista is also known to use Cavium's programmable Xpliant switching silicon in other platforms, giving it a multi-vendor approach to the market.


AT&T partners with Coral to launch $200m VC fund

AT&T announced it is committing to invest up to $200 million in a venture capital fund as part of its ongoing effort to develop solutions to address current and emerging technology challenges.

Under the program, AT&T will work with venture capital firm Coral's Communications Industry Platform (CIP) team to identify and invest in start-up companies that are focused on developing technology for connected services and platforms.  AT&T and Coral will also seek to identify additional companies interested in investing in the fund.

The new fund will specifically invest in technologies that run on the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) operating system for software-defined networks. AT&T noted that ONAP was created through the merging of a platform developed by AT&T Labs and an existing open source project.

ONAP is currently being used to manage the company's own cloud network, and is now an open source platform hosted by the Linux Foundation that is increasingly being adopted as the standard for virtualised networks worldwide.

AT&T stated that this latest investment initiative builds on its existing innovation programs that encompass AT&T Labs and the AT&T Foundry innovation centre that were established in 2011 to support work with the start-up companies and the open source community.

Coral Group is a venture capital firm that specialises in telecom systems integration, Internet-based consumer and enterprise-facing applications and services. The Communications Industry Platform (CIP) combines venture capital and integrated solutions to help communication service providers address strategic challenges. Coral has provided VC funding to companies including Calix, Flexlight Networks, Infinera and Picolight.


Regarding the initiative, Andre Fuetsch, CTO and president of AT&T Labs, noted, "This investment is part of AT&T's push to address the needs of global service providers… it will collaborate with Coral and other CIP members to find, and even create, start-up companies to build disruptive technologies to solve these challenges".


Baidu deploys Xilinx FPGAs for cloud acceleration

Xilinx announced that Baidu has deployed Xilinx FPGA-based application acceleration services into its public cloud, specifically for the Baidu FPGA Cloud Server, a new service that leverages Xilinx Kintex FPGAs, tools and the software required for hardware-accelerated data centre applications such as machine learning and data security.

The Baidu FPGA Cloud Server provides a complete FPGA-based hardware and software development environment, including hardware and software design examples, and is designed to help users quickly develop and migrate applications with reduced development costs.

The Baidu service is based on each FPGA instance serving as a dedicated acceleration platform that is not shared between instances or users. The design examples provided services including cover deep learning acceleration, encryption and decryption.

Xilinx claims that FPGA-enabled servers can deliver a 10x to 80x performance per watt advantage compared to CPU-only servers. In addition, as they are dynamically reconfigurable, Xilinx FPGAs can support a range of workloads, including machine learning, data analytics, security and video processing.



  • Separately, Baidu announced a partnership with Microsoft for its new open source autonomous driving platform, Apollo. Baidu unveiled Apollo in April, featuring cloud services, software and reference hardware/vehicle platforms, and expects the technology will be running on roads by late 2020.
  • In addition, Conexant, a provider of audio and voice technology solutions, announced it was collaborating with Baidu to release development kits and reference designs for device makers to develop far-field voice-enabled artificial intelligent (AI) devices running on Baidu's DuerOS platform. The development kits and reference designs will feature Conexant's CX20924 4-microphone and CX20921 2-microphone voice input processing solutions and DuerOS, a conversation-based AI system that enables access to a voice-activated digital assistant for mobile phones, TVs and other devices.

Equinix provides direct access to Oracle Cloud in Sydney

Equinix, the global interconnection and data centre company and a Gold level member of the Oracle Partner Network (OPN), announced the immediate availability of dedicated, private access to Oracle Cloud in its Sydney, Australia, International Business Exchange (IBX) data centre.

Available via Oracle Cloud Network Service - FastConnect and the Equinix Cloud Exchange, access will be available for Oracle Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) as well as Platform as a Service (PaaS). Direct access enables enterprise customers in the region to migrate compute, applications and data to Oracle Cloud in a low-latency manner for an optimal user experience.

The latest expansion builds on previous announcements between Equinix and Oracle to offer direct connection to multiple Oracle PaaS and IaaS services, including database, Java, integration, analytics, compute and storage, in multiple regions worldwide. The addition of Sydney brings the total markets where Equinix is offering private access to Oracle Cloud to five.

In addition to direct access to the Oracle Cloud, customers in Sydney also have access to Oracle Managed Cloud Services to help them determine the best deployment model for their business needs. Oracle Cloud delivers nearly 1,000 SaaS applications and 50 enterprise-class PaaS and IaaS services to customers in more than 195 countries.

Equinix noted that as business models become interdependent and enterprises adopt an interconnection oriented architecture (IOA) strategy in order to deliver the performance users require while utilising multiple IaaS, PaaS and SaaS cloud services. Enterprises can bring these services closer to end users by putting workloads and application near to the digital edge of their network in Equinix facilities, colocating IT hubs adjacent to the cloud service providers that host their cloud edges in Equinix facilities.

Equinix stated that its data centres in Sydney are the most interconnected in Australia, with customers able to establish direct links to both of the continent's largest peering points, as well as key submarine cable systems, and gain direct access to multiple network and cloud providers such as Oracle via the Equinix Cloud Exchange.


The Equinix Cloud Exchange is currently available in 21 markets, namely Amsterdam, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, New York, Osaka, Paris, Sao Paulo, Seattle, Silicon Valley, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Washington DC and Zurich.


Huawei Marine selected to build 4,000km Western Pacific Cable

Huawei Marine, the joint venture between Huawei Technologies and UK-based Global Marine Systems, announced it has signed a contract with the Solomon Island Submarine Cable Company (SISCC) to construct the first submarine cable in the Solomon Islands.

Huawei noted that the Solomon Islands encompasses six major islands and over nine hundred smaller islands situated to the northeast of Australia. Due to its geographical location, the Solomon Islands has been dependent on satellite connectivity for telecommunications service, which is costly and is becoming insufficient to meet the bandwidth demands of the country.

In 2016, the Solomon Islands' government founded the SISCC, with the remit to develop a submarine cable system to connect the main islands and provide onward connectivity to Australia.

Huawei Marine, in conjunction with its parent Huawei Technologies, has been selected to design and construct a network that will incorporate approximately 4,000 km of submarine cable and deliver total capacity of 2.5 Tbit/s. The new cable system will link Sydney on the east coast of Australia to the Solomon Islands capital Honiara, with a further domestic connectivity on to the cities of Auki and Noro. The cable system is expected to be ready for service in 2018.

The signing ceremony for the cable system contract was attended by Solomon Islands Prime minister Manasseh Sogavare, Minister of Finance and Treasury Snyder Rini, Minister of Communications and Aviation Peter Shanel, plus the CEO of SISCC Keir Preedy and the president of Huawei's South Pacific Region, Wei Chengmin.

Huawei Marine noted that it was recently selected to build submarine infrastructure in Papua New Guinea.

Commenting on the project, Keir Preedy, CEO of SISCC, said, I have been planning this submarine cable for nearly seven years… the completion of this cable will solve problems we are facing of insufficient bandwidth, high cost and unstable services… it will provide quality telecommunication services to carriers in the South Pacific region, and deliver high-speed Internet and telecom services in the Solomon Islands".


Fujitsu expands RunMyProcess PaaS

Fujitsu announced the global extension of its digital platform-as-a-service, RunMyProcess, with the addition of new regional cloud platforms in North America and Australia, expanding in the existing platforms in Europe and Asia.

The capacity increase for RunMyProcess is designed to support and address the growing digital transformation needs of organisations with regional compliance requirements for data sovereignty, regulation, security and low-latency.

Fujitsu's RunMyProcess is a native cloud platform that allows organisations to quickly and securely build, test, deploy and scale device-independent applications that connect digital business processes across cloud, on-premises and mobile environments.

Using RunMyProcess, organisations can model and streamline complex business processes while also integrating existing systems and services, whether cloud services such as Office 365 or on-premises solutions such as SAP, with smartphones, tablets, PCs, wearable technology and other devices. The platform's pre-built connectors is designed to allow customers to develop connected applications faster and deploy them within days, as well as scale up to thousands of users.

RunMyProcess is available globally with a choice of regional data centres. The new deployments in Australia and North America are now available both directly from RunMyProcess and via Fujitsu local sales teams.

Fujitsu stated that RunMyProcess is currently serving over 500 customers worldwide across a range of industries including government, defence, retail and manufacturing and utilities, as well as financial services and healthcare.

Fujitsu cited HomeServe USA, a provider of home emergency repair services, as an example of how RunMyProcess was used to digitalise end-to-end processes for the introduction of new products. RunMyProcess worked with HomerServer USA to create a new central process flow, supported by seven sub-processes and connecting 21 cross-functional teams.


Bahamas-based Cloud Carib builds data centres

Bahamas-based Cloud Carib, a provider of enterprise-grade, private and hybrid cloud solutions, announced that it is extending its reach across the Caribbean and Latin America region via multiple new data centres.

Cloud Carib is a leading managed cloud service provider in the Caribbean. The company currently operates data centres located on the islands of Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas, and plans to launch a newly rebuilt CaribPod data centre in Panama. Cloud Carib has also extended services into Barbados and Jamaica, and is planning to establish additional regional sites in Trinidad, Cayman and other locations before the end of the year.

Cloud Carib data centres are supported 24/7 by the company's command and control centre to provide clients with support and monitoring services. Cloud Carib data centres are operated in accordance with international standards, with services supported by the Cloud Carib service management framework.

The company noted that due to the geographical advantages of the region, there is growing interest from organisations in cloud services provided throughout the Bahamas and Caribbean. Cloud Carib is aiming to address this growing demand through regional expansion as it seeks to become a the premiere managed cloud services provider in the region.

Cloud Carib focuses exclusively on providing managed cloud services leveraging core competencies across disciplines including data centre services, business continuity services and mobile and productivity services.


Headquartered in Nassau, the Bahamas, Cloud Carib offers multiple data centre locations across the Caribbean, including in Freeport, Nassau, Panama, Barbados and Jamaica. It offers solutions including: IaaS, security, business continuity, productivity and mobility, together with professional services and VAR options.


Accedian appoints Dion Joannou as COO

Accedian, the specialist provider of performance assurance solutions for mobile networks and enterprise-to-data centre connectivity, announced the appointment of Dion Joannou as chief operating officer (COO), with responsibility for overseeing the company's global sales, business development, marketing and operations.

As COO, Dion will draw on extensive industry experience and knowledge to support Accedian as it seeks to scale its established market position and expand its customer base in the network operator, service provider and enterprise sectors worldwide.

Dion Joannou joins Accedian from Viavi Solutions (formerly JDSU), where he served for two years as SVP of Sales for the company's Network Service Enablement (NSE) unit. Prior to that, Mr. Joannou was with Nortel Networks for 14 years, where he held a number of leadership positions in the IP and wireless businesses in Europe and Central and Latin America. While at Nortel, he served in roles including chief strategy officer and as president of North American operations.

Dion Joannou holds an MBA in international business from the University of Miami, and a BA in business administration from Southern Illinois University.



  • Accedian recently announced the appointments to its board, namely Steve Pusey, former group CTO of Vodafone Group, Steve Mills, former VP for IBM Software and Systems, and Peter Griffiths, former EVP at CA Technologies. The board appointments followed the acquisition of the company by Bridge Growth Partners in March 2017, and are intended to support company growth.



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.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Keeping an eye on Alibaba Cloud, Aliyun – Part 3

In the days before President Trump's inauguration in January, Alibaba's Jack Ma was among the parade of billionaires and other dignitaries appearing at Trump Tower in New York City. At an impromptu press conference with Trump following the meeting, Jack Ma promised to create 1 million jobs in the U.S. within five years.  This week, Jack Ma is back on U.S. soil to host the Alibaba Gateway 17 conference in Detroit, Michigan, where the central proposition is that Alibaba's e-commerce platform is the gateway for small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. to access the booming Chinese economy. The Alibaba Cloud platform is a key enabler of this gateway.

Ma argues that the figure of one million new U.S. jobs is not implausible. After all, Alibaba claims to be responsible for the creation of 30 million new jobs in China already and current growth rates for the main Alibaba are impressive:

•   Core commerce business units (Taobao, Alibaba.com TMALL) - 45% YoY, 62% EBITA margin.

•   Alibaba Cloud - 121% YoY, -7% EBITA margin.

•   Digital Media and Entertainment (Youku) - 271% YoY, -44% EBITA margin.

For this year, Alibaba expects to generate $10.0 billion in free cash flow, growing at 37% CAGR. The guidance for FY 2018 calls for revenue growth in the 45-49% range, among the best in the world for companies of its size. As previously mentioned in this series, Alibaba's gross merchandise value (GMV) is expected to hit $547 billion this year and the target is $1 trillion for FY 2020. Since Alibaba already accounts for 11% of all retail sales in China, the company is seeking much of its future growth to come from overseas. Hence, this week's Alibaba Gateway 17 conference in Detroit hopes American SMBs will jump on board, lured by the 500 million active Chinese consumers on the platform.

Given the size of its operations in China, it is no exaggeration to say that Alibaba is built on data. During its November 11th selfie shopping festival last autumn, online ordering reached a peak of 175,000 transactions per second for a total of 657 million delivery orders that data. With data centres capable of handling such a load, it is clear that Aliyun's cloud capacity is highly scalable. Its data centre architecture, while not as publicly transparent as that of Facebook, Microsoft or Google, evidently have succeeded in overcoming the technical challenges involved in moving so much data so quickly across data centres and national network.

Among the technical skills required to operate at such scale is the search engine and personalisation algorithms to ensure that each user can find the product, services and entertainment that best matches their unique profile. Alibaba says it has 507 million mobile active users and over 1 billion active listings in its database of products and content. As AWS and Google, Alibaba is moving swiftly to implement speech recognition as a new customer input for generating system requests. Ultimately this requires a knowledge graph matched to an evolving user profile. Millions of customer inputs or even customer support inquiries must be processed for the 100,000+ merchants on the Alibaba platform already.

As noted previously, Aliyun's major domestic data centres are in Beijing, Hangzhou, Qingdao, Zhangbei and Shenzhen. Other active data centres are located in Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Silicon Valley. The company has announced plans to expand this fleet to 17 data centres, including many in neighbouring Asian countries.

Intel, ARM, Nvidia and Barefoot

One of Alibaba's high-profile partnerships to solve the scalability challenge is with Intel.  Earlier this year, Aliyun kicked off a pilot program with Intel for a cloud-based FPGA acceleration service. Specifically, Aliyun will use Intel Arria 10 FPGAs, Intel Xeon processor-based servers and software development tools for application acceleration as a ready-to-go pre-configured infrastructure. The Aliyun service offers systems designers cloud-based workload acceleration as an alternative to investing in on-premises FPGA infrastructure. It might not be all Intel inside for future Aliyun data centres. In April 2016, a China-based Green Computing Consortium (GCC) was formed with the goal of establishing a deep ecosystem in China for big data, enterprise and cloud computing platforms based on the ARM architecture. Under this consortium, ARM is working with Alibaba, Baidu, China National Software and Service, Dell. Guizhou Huaxintong, the joint venture company of Guizhou and Qualcomm Hewlett Packard Enterprise/H3C (HPE), Lenovo and Phytium. Alibaba has also been working with Nvidia to develop its AI processing performance. In 2016, Aliyun stated that it would use Nvidia Tesla K40 GPUs to power a range of HPC, AI and deep learning applications.

Meanwhile, earlier this month Barefoot Networks, which is developing high-speed switching silicon, announced that Aliyun had adopted its 6.5 Tbit/s Tofino switch, claimed to be the fastest and P4-programmable switch chip. Although the size of this order was not disclosed, the deal suggests that Aliyun might be developing its own networking gear, much like Google and Facebook, rather than buying brand-name equipment from the traditional vendors.

Clean power for Aliyun?

In its mid-2017 investor presentations, Alibaba noted green data centres as an area of focus for Aliyun infrastructure. However, the Greenpeace Clicking Clean report from January 2017 criticised Alibaba for not committing to a timeline for 100% renewable energy for its data centre operations and for a lack of basic transparency about the energy efficiency of its existing facilities.

Will Alibaba and Aliyun catch on in the U.S.?

For Chinese multi-nationals already in the U.S. market, the opening of local Aliyun data centres is good news.  A seamless service on one hyperscale public cloud is easier to manage than having to host some in Aliyun China and some in AWS U.S. There is a good chance that Aliyun U.S. can capture many of the Chinese companies abroad. But are those customers enough to challenge AWS or Microsoft? Probably not.

Jack Ma's vision is decisively in favour of the little guy, the SMBs. His outreach to the U.S. gives entrepreneurs and independent farmers easy access to Chinese buyers. One criticism of Alibaba's global expansion plan, as noted in a recent Bloomberg perspective is that the company lacks the distribution logistics and warehouses in China that Amazon possesses in the U.S. Moving goods from the US to the Chinese market will never be as easy as domestic operations. There are other bi-lateral trade issues between the nations that stand in the way, such as tariffs and quotas on many types of products.

Then there is the question of capex investment needed to keep pace with Amazon, Microsoft and Google in the U.S. cloud market. Some of these players are investing multiple billions per quarter in the cloud infrastructure. While Alibaba did not provide capex guidance during its Investor presentations, the figures do not appear to be close to the levels of the U.S. players. Each of the U.S. public cloud giants has also made significant investments in network infrastructure.  For instance, Facebook and Google are teaming up to build the highest capacity, trans-Pacific cable system to date. The Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), which will stretch 12,800 km between Los Angeles and Hong Kong, will have an estimated cable capacity of 120 Tbit/s when it enters service in the summer of 2018. Both players are betting that their platforms will be super-heavy of trans-Pacific bandwidth. This level of commitment from Alibaba has not been evident, at least not yet.

ZTE launches 5G solution with access, core, bearer elements

ZTE announced at Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2017 the availability of its 5G integrated solution, a comprehensive suite of solution for 5G wireless access, core network and bearer network designed to help operators accelerate their 5G commercial network deployments.

ZTE's 5G integrated solution, based on a cloud-based network architecture design, provides customers with integrated 5G network infrastructure and will support 5G industry standards as they are approved while enabling the transition from 4G to 5G.

The 5G integrated solution features network slicing functionality, which enables support for multiple services and application scenarios, and is designed to allow service providers to adapt to a range of business models for different market verticals. In addition, the closed-loop application development and operation system based on devops facilitates rapid service release and deployment.

The flexible cloud architecture of ZTE's 5G integrated solution is designed to enable operators to build open networks with wireless access, core and bearer networks based on a SDN architecture for enhanced efficiency.


The solution includes ZTE's 5G RAN, which offers support for all bands and multiple access modes to help enable multi-network operations. The Cloud ServCore core network is based on cloud-native service architecture, with user-defined network functions and capabilities to meet the needs of development, testing, release and updates. The Flexhaul bearer network provides high transmission capacity with low latency and SDN-based dynamic network resources adjustment.

See also