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
Ericsson's Hyperscale Datacenter System (HDS) 8000, featuring Intel's Rack Scale Architecture, caused a stir when it was announced at MWC 2015. For more on this revolutionary product, join me on Thursday, April 30 at 12:00 p.m. EST for a Super Webinar event, A New Hardware Paradigm for the Telco Data Center.
Between the CEOs
Ciena CEO: The Web-Scale Revolution

4|28|15   |   10:32   |   (0) comments


Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders goes head-to-head with long-time Ciena CEO Gary Smith to discuss the impact of the web-scale players, the New IP and 'white box' networks.
LRTV Documentaries
Cox Eyes Cloud-Based Home Networks

4|27|15   |   05:30   |   (0) comments


Cox's Jeff Finkelstein explains how moving services to the cloud will let cable deliver services faster and eliminate constant hardware replacements.
LRTV Documentaries
CableLabs' Clarke Updates Cable Virtualization

4|23|15   |   05:41   |   (1) comment


Former BT exec now leading CableLabs' NFV and SDN efforts explains key role of open source and updates efforts to virtualize the home network.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson's CTO Talks Transformation: Pt. II

4|23|15   |   08:19   |   (1) comment


In the second installment of an in-depth two-part interview, Ericsson's CTO Ulf Ewaldsson talks to Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders about cultural change, network slicing and technology advances.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson's CTO Talks Transformation: Pt. I

4|23|15   |   09:27   |   (3) comments


In the first installment of an in-depth two-part interview, Ericsson's CTO Ulf Ewaldsson talks to Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders about the incredible transformation underway in the communications networking industry.
LRTV Documentaries
LTE Paves the Way for the 5G Revolution

4|20|15   |   4:20   |   (0) comments


Håkan Andersson, head of 5G product strategy of the Radio Business Unit at Ericsson, discusses the role of LTE, the US and other industry verticals in building a true 5G ecosystem.
LRTV Documentaries
The 3GPP's Road to 5G Standardization

4|17|15   |   4:43   |   (0) comments


Satoshi Nagata, chairman of the 3GPP's TSG-RAN group and a manager at NTT Docomo, explains the standardization process for 5G, as well as the biggest challenges and opportunities.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu CTO Makes the Case for a New 5G Air Interface

4|16|15   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Michael Peeters, CTO of wireless at Alcatel-Lucent, explains why 5G will require a new air interface to meet its diverse performance targets.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu + Nokia: The New Uber-Vendor

4|15|15   |   2:42   |   (4) comments


Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown discusses the technological and competitive opportunities and challenges if a merger between Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia comes to pass.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Data Center Power Play

4|15|15   |   6:22   |   (0) comments


Huawei has developed industry-leading energy efficiency capabilities for its indoor and outdoor data center solutions, explains Dr. Fang Liangzhou, vice president of Huawei's Network Energy product Line.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Routers, Switches Get the Green Mark

4|15|15   |   2:02   |   (0) comments


TUV Rheinland's Frank Dudley explains how Huawei's routers and switches have been successfully tested by energy efficiency experts and have gained Green Mark Certification.
LRTV Documentaries
A Finn, a Frenchman & a Guy From New Jersey Walk Into a Merger...

4|15|15   |   3:17   |   (0) comments


Stop us if you've heard this one before... Light Reading CEO Founder & CEO Steve Saunders weighs in on the technical and cultural implications of a Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent merger.
Upcoming Live Events
May 6, 2015, Georgia World Congress, Atlanta, GA
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
In its latest survey covering network operators' plans and strategies for ICT transformation, Heavy Reading asked telecom operators worldwide to identify the most important goals and objectives for their ICT transformation initiatives. Heavy Reading also asked operators about the importance of a "digital first" strategy, which enables customers to complete an interaction across different digital channels, such as web and mobile self-service and social media.
Hot Topics
Comcast Formally Ends Its Bid for TWC
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 4/24/2015
Comcast Reportedly Dropping $45B TWC Bid
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 4/23/2015
Adtran Is Developing White Box GPON Tech
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 4/24/2015
Amazon Earnings: What to Watch For
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 4/23/2015
Google's WiFi-First Mobile Service 'Fi' Is Here
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/22/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders goes head-to-head with long-time Ciena CEO Gary Smith to discuss the impact of the web-scale players, the New IP and 'white box' networks.
Many leading communications companies can claim to have undergone significant periods of reinvention during their histories, but none have been through more major ...
Cats with Phones
Cats Using Technology for Good, for Once Click Here