Tactical Advice

New Cisco Network Fabric Reins in the Internet of Everything

Network Convergence System stitches Cisco core routers into a single fabric for maximum network programmability, scalability and virtualization.
New Cisco Network Fabric Reins in the Internet of Everything
Credit: Cisco

Cisco’s business is all about making connections. It’s no wonder, then, that the company that’s already linking networks through its routers and switches and people via unified communications technologies is now gearing up to connect everything else on the planet.

Late last month, Cisco introduced its new Network Convergence System (NCS), a hardware platform intended to address the trillions of devices (e.g., refrigerators, toasters, cameras, houses, etc.) expected to come online over the next 10 years. This is an ongoing event (phenomenon, really) that the company has dubbed the Internet of Everything.

Network World reports the NCS isn’t so much a router as a network fabric family intended to scale Cisco’s CRS router cores and ASR 9000 edge routers from centralized systems to distributed architectures. The system acts as a “central nervous system” that merges service provider IP and optical networks with Dynamic Fabric Automation networking and the Cisco Unified Computing System server in data centers.

The programmable (onePK API) system is powered by Cisco’s new nPower X1 integrated network processor, which packs in 4 billion transistors on a single chip.

Cisco emphasizes how the programmability and virtualization capabilities in the NCS will allow service providers to speed up the changeover to software-defined networking and network-function virtualization.

Speaking with Network World about the fabric, Ray Mota, founder of ACG Research, notes that with "all of the benefits and advantages on why customers wanted a fabric in their data center, the next logical step is to extend those to the WAN — a WAN fabric that is capable of virtualizing with a platform, with southbound and northbound API's that allows programmability of the network."

The three components to Cisco’s NCS fabric family include NCS 6000, NCS 4000 and NCS 2000, which can be deployed and managed individually or as an integrated system. Shipping today, the NCS 6000 is the first 1 Tbps line card. It is capable of transporting up to 5 Tbps per slot and 1.2 Pbps per system to support a converged IP and optical environment.

Due in the first half of 2014, the NCS 4000 will support 400 Gbps per slot and 6.4 terabits per system. It’ll be available in single, back-to-back and multi-chassis configurations and support optical transport networks, dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM), synchronous optical networking and Ethernet applications.

Lastly, the NCS 2000, shipping today, connects DWDM transport networks at rates of 100 Gbps and beyond and supports dynamic network configurability with 96-channel multiplexer capabilities.

"The Cisco NCS was engineered with the programmability, intelligence and scalability to meet the demands of today and tomorrow,” says Surya Panditi, SVP and GM of Cisco's Service Provider Networking Group. “The NCS delivers an evolved programmable network that will enable service providers to generate new revenue streams and business models, while delivering exciting new experiences to their customers."

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About the Author

James Alan Miller

James is a veteran technology journalist with many years’ experience creating and developing magazine and online content. He is passionate about mobile tech, music and running — when the stars align.  Follow him on Google+ and Twitter:

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