Light Reading

Cisco Goes Inside With Silicon Photonics

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto
3/14/2013
50%
50%

Cisco Systems Inc. is applying silicon photonics not only to 100Gbit/s modules, but to its own ASICs as well. That was one of the many tech snippets Cisco discussed at its Editors Conference, an information session held Wednesday in San Jose, Calif., for the press. More than a dozen executives took the stage to talk about their domains inside Cisco, and silicon photonics was brought up by David Ward, a Cisco CTO and chief architect. In public, Ward has mostly spoken about Cisco's software-defined networking (SDN) initiatives. But given the option to pick favorite technologies to tell reporters about, he chose to deviate from SDN for a few minutes to talk about silicon photonics, which he called "absolutely the most interesting thing going on in ASIC technology today."


David Ward famously gives his talks while pacing in his socks
Optical chip-to-chip connections will definitely be a factor in Cisco's next-generation ASICs, and the company already has the technology working in the lab, Ward told Light Reading. Cisco got its silicon photonics expertise last year by acquiring Lightwire, which was aiming its silicon photonics at optical modules. Sometime this year, Cisco is expected to formally announce the CPAK format for 100Gbit/s pluggable modules, an alternative to the CFP and CFP2 standards. The more commonly mentioned aspect of silicon photonics, though, is the technology's potential in chip-to-chip interconnect. Intel Corp. is particularly interested in using silicon photonics to boost the input/output density on future chips, because lasers could do the job without pushing power consumption and heat to unreasonable levels. Ward brought up an ancillary benefit: "Because these are much smaller packages for the amount of I/O bandwidth that they have and they use much less power, we now can combine more feature logic into the chip, [rather] than just I/O logic." Cisco has a vested interest in ASIC advances, because it's staking much of its future on a continued churn-out of ASICs. Asked by Light Reading on Wednesday how much longer Cisco expects ASIC-driven equipment to be vital to networking, Senior Vice President Rob Lloyd said, "Forever." Software will be increasingly important, too, but Cisco is convinced that mobility and cloud-based applications will intensify the need for ASIC-based processing throughout the network. For more
— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading
(6)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Craig Matsumoto
50%
50%
Craig Matsumoto,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/15/2013 | 2:30:47 PM
re: Cisco Goes Inside With Silicon Photonics
-áYep, I agree the router low-end will get eaten away. Cisco seems to doubt that (or, to put it another way, maybe they can't afford to believe it?) -- Lloyd's theory is that the increased processing required by cloud/mobility will drive the network edges to require something more sophisticated than x86s.

But I the opposite case is plausible too, where the edge becomes a lot of busy, dumb, task-churning processors with all the heavy-lifting software existing in a controller, or "in the cloud," if you want to say it that way.

(I'm talking about the telecom network here. I think even Cisco would agree there's a low low end -- my house, e.g. -- where an x86/Linux router will be just fine.)
soldack
50%
50%
soldack,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/15/2013 | 1:46:14 AM
re: Cisco Goes Inside With Silicon Photonics
Cisco often buys or works with multiple companies in the same space. -áIn the InfiniBand arena they purchased TopSpin but they shortly there after resold SilverStorm/QLogic gear for awhile. -áASIC will work on the high end and if the volumes are right. -áLittle linux routers are getting better though and will eat up the low end eventually. -áIt was a little while ago that someone posted a server routing 80 gbps using all off the shelf equipment.
Craig Matsumoto
50%
50%
Craig Matsumoto,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/14/2013 | 10:44:15 PM
re: Cisco Goes Inside With Silicon Photonics
-áWell... I'm not sure the startups' technologies overlapped that much. Lightwire was about silicon photonics, and CoreOptics' important pieces were other electronics that happen to relate to 100G coherent.

David Ward wasn't saying silicon photonics *are* ASICs, just that the technology is very important to ASICs, and I think he's right.-á I think chip-to-chip interconnect is what most people think about when they think silicon photonics. The technology definitely has a role with future generations of really large chips.
redface
50%
50%
redface,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/14/2013 | 8:47:35 PM
re: Cisco Goes Inside With Silicon Photonics
Cisco bought CoreOptics in 2010 for "highly advanced 100 Gbps technology". -áNow there is Lightwire, for the same 100G technology. -áGo figure. -áIt seems more like Cisco does not know what it is doing. -áRegardless of what Mr. David Ward says, Silicon Photonics is not ASIC. -áIt just shows how clueless Cisco is regarding components. -áAnd Cisco has had almost no success in doing component level work to speak of. -á
Craig Matsumoto
50%
50%
Craig Matsumoto,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/14/2013 | 6:17:51 PM
re: Cisco Goes Inside With Silicon Photonics
-áTrue. I was surprised to hear they were already trying on-chip optics.

Of course, Cisco's forward thinking focuses on preserving the key Cisco franchises. While Rob Lloyd has a point about ASIC-driven gear, Cisco is dependent on that trend lasting "forever." I do wonder if the company is taking any steps to be ready in case the x86 revolution suddenly happens. I talked with Pankaj Patel about this a little bit yesterday, so I'm hoping to post that interview soon.
Deirdre Blake
50%
50%
Deirdre Blake,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/14/2013 | 3:05:36 PM
re: Cisco Goes Inside With Silicon Photonics
They're certainly trying to cover all the bases; nice to see some forward thinking coming from Cisco these days.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Last week I dropped in on "Hotlanta," Georgia to moderate Light Reading's inaugural DroneComm conference – a unique colloquium investigating the potential for drone communications to disrupt the world's telecom ecosystem. As you will see, it was a day of exploration and epiphany...
Between the CEOs
Affirmed Networks CEO: Digging Into NFV

5|28|15   |   40:26   |   (2) comments


Hassan Ahmed, CEO of Affirmed Networks, is making some big claims for his NFV startup. I sat down with him at the Light Reading HQ in New York City to get the skinny on what this Acton, Mass.-based startup is up to.
LRTV Documentaries
Cable Eyeing SDN for Headend, Home Uses

5|26|15   |   05:57   |   (1) comment


CableLabs is looking at virtualizing CMTS and CCAP devices in the headend, as well as in-home devices, says CableLabs' Karthik Sundaresan.
LRTV Documentaries
Verizon's Emmons: SDN Key to Cost-Effective Scaling

5|22|15   |   03:53   |   (0) comments


For Verizon and other network operators to ramp up available bandwidth cost effectively, they need to move to SDN and agree on how to do that.
LRTV Documentaries
Lack of Universal SDN a Challenge

5|21|15   |   04:51   |   (3) comments


Heavy Reading Analyst Sterling Perrin talks about how uncertainty about SDN standards and approaches may be slowing deployment.
LRTV Custom TV
Steve Vogelsang Interview: Carrier SDN

5|20|15   |   05:02   |   (0) comments


Sterling Perrin speaks to Steve Vogelsang, Alcatel-Lucent CTO for IP Routing & Transport business, about the new Carrier SDN-enabling Network Services Platform and the operator challenges it solves.
LRTV Custom TV
Carrier SDN: On-Demand Networks for an On-Demand World

5|20|15   |   20:52   |   (0) comments


Steve Vogelsang, Alcatel-Lucent CTO for IP Routing & Transport business, talks about requirements and benefits of Carrier SDN during the keynote address at the Light Reading Carrier SDN event May 2015.
LRTV Documentaries
The Security Challenge of SDN

5|19|15   |   02:52   |   (0) comments


CenturyLink VP James Feger discusses concerns that virtualization could create new vulnerabilities unless network operators build in safeguards.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Elasticity – Highly Available VNF Scale-Out Architectures for the Mobile Edge

5|18|15   |   5:50   |   (0) comments


Peter Marek and Paul Stevens from Advantech Networks and Communications Group talk about their NFV Elasticity initiative and the company's latest platforms for deploying virtual network functions at the edge of the network. Packetarium XL and the new Versatile Server Module: 'designed to reach parts of the network that other servers cannot reach.'
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Bay Area Spark Meetup 2015

5|14|15   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Developed in 2009, Apache Spark is a powerful open source processing engine built around speed, ease of use and sophisticated analytics. This spring, Huawei hosted a meetup for Spark developers and data scientists in Santa Clara, California. Light Reading spoke with organizers and attendees about Huawei's code contributions and long-term commitment to Spark.
LRTV Custom TV
The Transport SDN Buzz

5|12|15   |   06:01   |   (1) comment


Sterling Perrin, senior analyst at Heavy Reading, speaks with Peter Ashwood-Smith of Huawei and Guru Parulkar of ON.Lab about the evolution of transport SDN and the integration of technologies.
LRTV Custom TV
Next-Generation CCAP: Cisco cBR-8 Evolved CCAP

5|5|15   |   04:49   |   (0) comments


John Chapman, Cisco's CTO of Cable Access Business Unit and Cisco Fellow, explained the innovation design of Cisco's cBR-8, the industry's first Evolved CCAP, including DOCSIS 3.1 design from ground-up, distributed CCAP with Remote PHY and path to virtualization. Cisco's cBR-8 Evolved CCAP is the platform that will last through the transitions.
LRTV Custom TV
Meeting the Demands of Bandwidth & Service Group Growth

5|1|15   |   5:35   |   (0) comments


Jorge Salinger, Comcast's Vice President of Access Architecture, explains how DOCSIS 3.1 and multi-service CCAP can meet the demands of the bandwidth and service group growth.
Upcoming Live Events
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Procera has gathered facts, stats and customer experience feedback from a survey of 540 users from across the globe.
Hot Topics
Bidding War for TWC Looks Likelier
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 5/22/2015
Charter Seals Deals for TWC, Bright House
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/26/2015
Eurobites: Alcatel-Lucent Trials 400G in Czech Republic
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 5/26/2015
Will Carriers Follow Facebook's Networking Lead?
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 5/28/2015
Charter Plans Business Services, Wireless Push
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 5/27/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
On May 29th 1 PM ET, Steve Saunders, founder and CEO of Light Reading, will be drilling into the "pains and gains" of NFV with Saar Gillai, SVP & GM for NFV at Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) (HP). He has defined a four-step NFV model describing a sequence of technology innovation. It's a must-read doc for any network architect looking to get to grips with their NFV migration strategy. Join us for the interview, and the chance to ask Saar your NFV questions directly!
Hassan Ahmed, CEO of Affirmed Networks, is making some big claims for his NFV startup. I sat down with him at the Light Reading HQ in New York City to get the skinny on what this Acton, Mass.-based startup is up to.
Cats with Phones