Optical/IP Networks

Cisco Takes On 10 GigE Competition

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has upped the ante in the 10-Gbit/s Ethernet race. Today the company announced three key enhancements to its existing Catalyst 6500, making it the leader in terms of both price and performance in 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switching (see Cisco Boosts Catalyst 6500).

Cisco already offers a one-port 10-Gbit/s Ethernet module on the Catalyst 6500, but, like most of its switching competitors, it didn’t offer true line-rate performance on its first-generation product. And because the density was so low, it was wildly expensive. But with today’s announcement all of that is changing.

“I’m not surprised by the new enhancements,” says Zeus Kerravala, vice president of enterprise infrastructure at Yankee Group. “But I am surprised that they were able to get all this functionality together so quickly. I wasn’t expecting them to announce anything until the end of the year.”

An important key to the new Cisco 10-Gbit/s story is the Supervisor Engine 720, which, as its name suggests, offers 720-Gbit/s worth of switching capacity. The previous Supervisor Engine only offers 256 Gbit/s. But in addition to more capacity, Cisco has also integrated the switch fabric into the Supervisor module, making it both more compact and more affordable. The 256-Gbit/s Supervisor Engine lists for about $35,000 and requires a $10,500 switch fabric. The new 720-Gbit/s Supervisor Engine lists for $28,000 -- and that includes the switch fabric.

In addition to line-rate services like IPv4, quality of service (QOS), and access control list lookup, the new Supervisor Engine also provides a number of hardware-accelerated services including IPv6, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), network address translation (NAT), and General Routing Encapsulation. It also forwards packets at 400 million packets per second, almost double what the 256-Mbit/s Engine offers.

While the 720 Supervisor Engine makes it possible to handle line-rate 10-Gbit/s switching on every port, Cisco has also improved the density, performance, and price of the actual 10-Gbit/s interfaces. The company has developed two separate modules to address two markets. The two-port 10-Gbit/s module is targeted at the service provider metro Ethernet market, while the four-port 10-Gbit/s module is squarely targeted at data-center and research applications.

As for the two-port 10-Gbit/s solution: With support for 16 QOS queues and 150 millisecond buffers, it also offers full line-rate, non-blocking switching of Ethernet packets. The module is specifically designed for metro Ethernet applications, although it can be used alongside the ONS 15808 DWDM transport device to provide 2,000km transmission of optical Ethernet without regeneration, allowing service providers to extend the reach of their metro Ethernet networks without using Sonet technology.

Experts expect service provider metro networks to eventually be the sweet spot for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, as more Ethernet deployments to homes and businesses will require more traffic aggregation.

“Large enterprise customers are already demanding metro Ethernet services,” says Michael Kennedy, managing partner at Network Strategy Partners LLC. “Carriers are starting to see the market opportunity.”

But the uptake in the metro is expected to be slow. In the meantime, both large enterprises aggregating traffic on campus networks and large data centers aggregating clusters of high-performance services are also expected to move to 10 Gbit/s. Cisco has a solution here, too. In fact, it is the first vendor to announce a four-port 10-Gbit/s Ethernet module specifically designed for this market (see 10-Gigabit Ethernet).

Force10 Networks Inc., a startup specializing in 10 Gbit/s for research and data-center applications, has revealed plans to offer a four-port card, but hasn’t announced it yet.

Doug Gourlay, Cisco's senior manager of product marketing for the Catalyst 6500, admits that the four-port module doesn’t perform at line rate. He says it operates at about 98 percent of its total capacity, but he claims this is sufficient for data-center applications.

Cisco is also competing on price, an unusual twist for the networking giant. The base price for the two-port 10-Gbit/s Ethernet module is $60,000 or about $30,000 per port. For the four-port module, which actually has less functionality than the two-port, the list price is $20,000 or about $5,000 per base module. But where the company has really pushed the envelope on price is in the optics. It is offering 1310nm optics, which can reach about 10 kilometers, for $4,000. The longer-reach 1550nm optics, which reach about 40 km, are $12,000. Previously, Cisco’s optics listed anywhere between $30,000 and $40,000. The big difference here is that Cisco is now using the modular Xenpak format rather than custom optics.

All told, Cisco is able to offer 10-Gbit/s interfaces for less than $10,000 per port. This is an amazing feat, considering that Force10 hit the low price mark at $17,000 per port (see Force10 Slashes 10-GigE Pricing). The cut in prices, along with the enhanced functionality, spells trouble for Cisco competitors. Startup Force10 is likely to be the hardest hit.

“Clearly Cisco has made a leap in performance and pricing,” says Yankee's Kerravala. “I can’t say there is much of a reason to even go with Force10 now. It’s ironic, but Force10 probably helped escalate the development of 10 Gbit/s. But they themselves may never benefit from it.”

Companies like Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), Riverstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RSTN), and Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) will also be affected. Kerravala sees Foundry, with its soon-to-be-released platform, code-named Mucho Grande, as the second supplier in the high-end data-center switching market behind Cisco (see Foundry Intros Next-Gen 10-Gig Ethernet ). But if the 3Com Corp. (Nasdaq: COMS) / Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. joint venture comes out with a 10-Gbit/s solution, it could win the second supplier seat (see 3Com Taps Huawei in Enterprise Battle).

As for the metro market, Riverstone and Extreme are likely to take the brunt. Both companies are expected to announce new 10-Gbit/s platforms in the first half of this year. While these companies have made some traction in Asia selling metro Ethernet gear, neither company has been able to crack the incumbent regional Bell operators in the U.S. But Cisco already has. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has deployed hundreds of Catalyst 6500s in its internal network as well as its metro networks. Cisco also has a strategic relationship with SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC) (see Cisco and SBC: What's the Big Deal?). It’s very likely that these RBOCs will look toward Cisco first for their 10-Gbit/s Ethernet needs.

“Cisco has a much better end-to-end story through the metro than any other company,” says Kerravala. “They’re also matching [competitors] on price, which will hurt.”

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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mugwhump 12/5/2012 | 12:20:32 AM
re: Cisco Takes On 10 GigE Competition It will be interesting to see the time frames of when any of this becomes available. As a Cisco resller I am really getting gun-shy of these things. Been burned way too many times recently.

As of today NONE of the new toys are available on CCO. Past ecperience has shown that an announcement from Cisco does not mean it can be ordered. Nor does it guarantee that the bits and pieces will actually work together. Typically one can expect a 3 to 6 month lag from the time it is orderable until it is actually stable.

Others are shipping products today. I can surmise that this 'announcement" is at best a stalling tactic. Anyone contemplating these should ask to see them actually working.

Just my (informed) .02
Hanover_Fist 12/5/2012 | 12:20:31 AM
re: Cisco Takes On 10 GigE Competition Actually, contrary to what The Yankee Group thinks, Extreme and Foundry are going to be most hurt by Cisco's latest product announcement.

Again, Cisco trys but just misses the performance bar - if one actually reads Cisco's data sheets (and avoids talking to marketing hacks), one finds the following:

40 Gbps of per slot capacity is actually two 10 Gigabit Ethernet channels running in full duplex (10 Gbps to switch fabric / 10 Gigabit from switch fabric) times two channels = 40 Gbps TOTAL slot capacity.

40 Gbps of Total slot capacity times 8 slots (becuase the Sup720 actually occupies one of nine slots in a 6509) yeields 320 Gbps of switching capacity - and remember that the 40 Gbps number has already been quoted as a full-duplex capacity.

Based on the above, 320 Gbps is a far cray from their "marketed" 720 Gbps. I for one would like Cisco to explain where the 720 Gbps number comes from. If I were a gambling person, I would be heavily that Cisco has (yet) another Supervisory module upgrade planned for the near future.

The 2-port dCEF720-enabled 10 Gigabit Ethernet module will run at line rate - however, the 4-port aCEF720-enabled 10 Gigabit Ethernet linecard is severeley oversubscribed (and at $20,000, it's probably missing a whole lot of functionality).

You must upgrade the Fan Tray and power supplies in the chassis (just to get started) and there's no telling how many other system level upgrades will be required to get an existing chassis - this does wonders to overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

There are probably other important details that Cisco glossed over (to save themselves from a heck of a lot of explaining) but it is good to see them aggressively attacking the 10 Gbps Ethernet market. This is good for the industry and for those customers who want to purchase low cost / low performance 10 Gigabit Etherent products today.
literight 12/5/2012 | 12:20:30 AM
re: Cisco Takes On 10 GigE Competition The announcement says Q3. If you take the Sup3 720 (sic!) and stick it into the Cat, load up 8 10*2 10 gig ports is that full capacity for the Cat per their own admission?

Some serious Cat-math work in order to even physically config this beast. It goes like this: 2*10 GE line rate under some conditions OR 2*10 GE not line rate since features enabled OR 1*10 GE because it's legacy OR 4*10 GE not line-rate because you don't need it VS. which slot do you stick this into?

Looks like Zeus Kerravala is on the Cisco payroll to be commenting on things he knows nothing about, folks that read and believe Yankee need some serious prayers to go along with!

I bet this is not even live in the Cisco labs! Pure marketing techniques for stalling customers.
Hanover_Fist 12/5/2012 | 12:20:30 AM
re: Cisco Takes On 10 GigE Competition Ntwkeng,
You must work at Cisco because you too have drank mightly of the Cisco Kool-aid.

The 20 Gbps fabric channel as stated in their data sheets is actually a full-duplex capacity number (10 Gbps into the switch fabric plus 10 Gbps out of the switch fabric). Two 20 Gbps fabric channel connections per slot is 40 Gigabits - in FULL DUPLEX.

I'm basing my analysis on Page 6 of their 10 Gigabit Ethernet data sheet that describes the "aCEF720" interface modules - no where do they say this module provides line-rate performance (except when they couple that with local switching).

On page 7, Cisco specifically called out that the dCEF720 module provide line-rate 10 Gigabit Ethernet performance for 2 PORTS ONLY.

2-ports of 10 Gigabit Etherent running in full duplex is 40 Gbps. That's where the 40 Gbps number comes from.

To double that capacity once again to get you to 720 Gbps (80 x 9 slots) is bending "real math" to the breaking point.

The 4-port 10 Gigabit Etherent module introduces 80 Gigabits of full duplex capacity. I don't see Cisco talking about this type of capacity anywhere in their documentation (becuase it just ain't so, Joe!).

"Designed for
ntwkeng 12/5/2012 | 12:20:30 AM
re: Cisco Takes On 10 GigE Competition Actually, per Cisco's datasheets and presentations it is 2x 20Gb/s Fabric channels per slot for 40Gb/s per slot (real math).

I think they used a 9 slot chassis for this since it gives 2 channels per slot including the Supervisor slot, allowing for 9 x 40 = 360Gbps x 2 = 720Gbps.

The 4-port module on a 40Gb/s fabric would probably be a little if not at all oversubscribed for L2 oeprations although at 48Mpps L3 forwarding it would be oversubscribed at smaller packet sizes. (Roughly 1Gbps = 1.5Mpps.
arak 12/5/2012 | 12:20:27 AM
re: Cisco Takes On 10 GigE Competition Two sentences:

Mindless non-engineering drones at the enterprises who go by the title "Network Engineer"


Clueless managers who never get fired for authorizing purchases of expensive Crisco pieces of shit

Tsk, tsk ... and y'all wonder why Criso takes home the bacon ?


Light-Bulb wrote:
> Embedded Base...
> And
> Extra Features...
> Put them together, Cisco gets the Pizza.

Light-bulb 12/5/2012 | 12:20:27 AM
re: Cisco Takes On 10 GigE Competition Embedded Base...


Extra Features...

Put them together, Cisco gets the Pizza.

dwdm 12/5/2012 | 12:20:26 AM
re: Cisco Takes On 10 GigE Competition I called my favorite Cisco SE earlier today and asked. He did confirm that each slot gets 2x20Gbps worth of bandwidth of real math. He also mentioned that the sup720 is orderable today and orders will ship in 4-6 weeks. I can't order one, so I can't verify, but I never had any issues in the past with any info that I got from him. He did mention that some linecards will use both 20Gig channels and some will use a single channel.

I've read this anouncement, and if this turns out anything like the previous supervisor module, then they got a damn good product. Yes, I'm reading this stuff, and I'm starting to drink the kool aid :-)
dwdm 12/5/2012 | 12:20:25 AM
re: Cisco Takes On 10 GigE Competition Hanover_Fist,

20Gbps FULL DUPLEX means 40Gbps half duplex when you talk about bandwidth per slot. So when they say, 2x20Gbps full duplex, it also means 2x40Gbps half duplex channels. In other words, full duplex is real math, and half duplex is marketing math.

> The 4-port 10 Gigabit Etherent module introduces
> 80 Gigabits of full duplex capacity. I don't see
> Cisco talking about this type of capacity
> anywhere in their documentation (becuase it
> just ain't so, Joe!).

So the 4-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet module introduces 80 Gbps of half duplex capacity or 40 full duplex capacity.

ext88 12/5/2012 | 12:20:23 AM
re: Cisco Takes On 10 GigE Competition
Is Cisco's announcement today the kiss of death for F10? I sort of think so. What ILEC/RBOC/IXC, etc would purchase gear from F10 now that Cisco has a cheaper, more compelling solution? Oh, and Cisco also has the service to go with it. F10 can't come close to Cisco's service infrastructure.

Hey PK, I guess F10 is not looking too much like an "A-Grade" company now, is it? Good luck, because Cisco is going to bury F10. Ouch, that's gotta hurt.
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