Cisco converges recent NFV and SDN developments into its new Network Convergence System to help communications service providers move towards a programmable network.

Dan O'Shea, Analyst,

September 24, 2013

4 Min Read
Cisco Unveils Carrier SDN Network Fabric

Following months of Carrier SDN (software-defined networking) and NFV (network functions virtualization) shadow-boxing, Cisco Systems has announced a new network fabric for the virtual networking world and unveiled three new hardware platforms aimed at delivering the benefits of NFV and SDN to communications service providers (CSPs).

The announcement of the Cisco Network Convergence System includes three hardware components the vendor says can be managed as a single, integrated system. Surya Panditi, senior vice president and general manager, Service Provider Networking Group at Cisco, describes the Network Convergence System as a "central nervous system for managing the evolved programmable network."

The hardware components in play include:

  • The NCS 6000, which is an IP/MPLS routing platform capable, according to Cisco, of 5 Tbit/s per slot and 1.2 Pbit/s per system;

    • The NCS 4000, which supports OTN, WDM, SONET and Ethernet applications at 400 Gbit/s per slot and 6.4 Tbit/s per system;

    • The NCS 2000, which connects DWDM transport networks at 100 Gbit/s and above, with 96-channel ROADM capabilities for dynamic network configurability.

      The NCS 6000 and NCS 2000 are available for shipping now, while the NCS 4000 will be available in the first half of 2014.

      Three major service providers -- Japan's KDDI Corp. , Australia's Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS), and the UK's Sky -- are already deploying elements of the NCS in their networks, says Doug Webster, vice president of marketing at Cisco's Service Provider Networking Group. "A lot of people are talking about these concepts of how to create a more dynamically programmable network environment, but we are shipping products," Webster says.

      Those early deployments should help Cisco start to realize the virtualization-related revenue it's been telling the market industry will be key to its future success. (See Cisco Sees NFV as a Key to New Sales.)

      The NCS family, which fits within the broader Cisco ONE Service Provider Architecture, leverages previous Cisco developments aimed at increasing the speed and flexibility of networks as they respond to the demand created by various traffic trends, ranging from cloud transactions and video consumption to mobile broadband and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.

      One of those innovations is the 400 Gbit/s nPower X1 processor announced earlier this month and targeted at supporting explosive growth in transactions exemplified by M2M. (See Cisco Aims New Chip at SDN, M2M.)

      The NCS fabric also draws on Cisco's SDN-related data center developments, including its Unified Computing System and Dynamic Fabric Automation capabilities. It includes capabilities from Cisco's nLight multi-layer control plane to simplify and optimize the convergence of Layer 3 core, edge, and access functions. (See Cisco's Core Router Gets Optical Genes and Cisco Pledges SDN Openness With Cariden.)

      "We're creating the ability to respond to the rise of event-based communications and related transactions by shifting your network resources round in real time," Panditi says.

      Ray Mota, founder of ACG Research , said applying SDN-related data center concepts to the wide area network (WAN) makes sense, and gives Cisco a more flexible platform for addressing service providers' network needs.

      "A WAN fabric that is capable of virtualizing the network with a platform with southbound and northbound APIs allows programmability of the network," he says.

      Panditi was hesitant to describe the NCS as an SDN or NFV overlay, but Mota says that isn't surprising. "There is still some misunderstanding around what SDN or NFV really mean," he says. "SDN should be more than just breaking out the control plane from the data plane. It's about the programmability of the network, which should simplify and leverage the assets of your network. And NFV is more than just breaking out the software from a dedicated appliance -- it's really about reducing the time to efficiency or service velocity, which increases the value of your network," says the analyst.

      — Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

      Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Ethernet & SDN Expo, a Light Reading Live event that takes place on October 2-3, 2013 at the Javits Center in New York City. Co-located with Interop, Light Reading's Ethernet& SDN Expo will focus on how the convergence of Carrier Ethernet 2.0 with emerging carrier software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) technologies could change the whole telecom landscape for service providers. For more information, or to register,
      click here.

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About the Author(s)

Dan O'Shea


You want Dans? We got 'em! This one, "Fancy" Dan O'Shea, has been covering the telecom industry for 20 years, writing about virtually every technology segment and winning several ASBPE awards in the process. He previously served as editor-in-chief of Telephony magazine, and was the founding editor of FierceTelecom. Grrrr! Most recently, this sleep-deprived father of two young children has been a Chicago-based freelance writer, and continues to pontificate on non-telecom topics such as fantasy sports, craft beer, baseball and other subjects that pay very little but go down well at parties. In his spare time he claims to be reading Ulysses (yeah, right), owns fantasy sports teams that almost never win, and indulges in some fieldwork with those craft beers. So basically, it's time to boost those bar budgets, folks!

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