Cisco is upping its game in switches, WiFi and 5G

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In the absence of CiscoLive Europe, the San Jos equipment manufacturer unveiled high-end Catalyst Ethernet and WiFi equipment during an online press briefing and announced a private 5G-as-a-service with partners.

Chris Stori, Vice Pr

Despite the cancellation of its CiscoLive 2022 Europe convention, scheduled in Amsterdam from February 7 to 11, Cisco is renewing its range of Catalyst switches intended to improve companies’ Ethernet and WiFi networks to better meet the growing demand for remote connectivity. The company has added more capable switches to the top of its Catalyst family – the higher-end ones featuring the vendor’s Silicon One processors – as well as revised Catalyst and Meraki wireless boxes to expand WiFi 6E support. The company also announced the establishment of a private 5G service.

The thrust of these upgrades is to increase network performance, capacity and reliability as applications are distributed across data warehouses and clouds, according to Todd Nightingale, head of Enterprise Networking. & Cloud from Cisco. “We can no longer pretend that an agile and fast network is a nice thing to have. It is essential to obtain a strategic and competitive advantage,” said the manager during the supplier’s press briefing on February 3. “Since March 2020, we have seen that traffic is up on all sites. But video adoption is leading the way, especially in smaller sites like offices and retail that are now driving 30% more traffic than before the pandemic began. »

Premium Catalyst Switches

With this in mind, Cisco launched the Catalyst 9500 and 9600X switches, which are powered by the in-house Silicon One Q200 (12.8 Tbps) chip. Aimed at enterprise networks that need greater bandwidth and throughput to support modern application workloads, these Catalyst enclosures offer 400 Gbps access switching. “These switches bring together the benefits of routing and switching in a unified architecture that enables unprecedented enterprise performance,” said Chris Stori, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco Networking Experiences, during the presentation announcing the materials. “With four times lower power consumption and rock-solid programmability, each 400 Gig port provides enough bandwidth to run 80,000 simultaneous high-definition video streams – which is incredibly impressive, considering that this That’s five times the number of titles that can be found in the entire Netflix library. »

Until now, Cisco’s Silicon One chips have been reserved for the company’s 8000-series, carrier-class hyperscaler routers. Silicon One optical routing silicon supports large non-blocking distributed routers, deep buffering with rich QoS, and programmable forwarding. All Silicon One packages are programmable, as they can be customized for a range of applications from a single chipset, eliminating the need to deploy multiple specific silicons for standalone processors, line card chips and fabric elements. According to Cisco, this is possible thanks to a common and unified programmable P4 routing code and software development kit.

The Catalyst 9500 host Cisco’s Silicone One chip to improve performance. (Credit Cisco)

More 6E WiFi equipment

Cisco’s Catalyst wired line isn’t the only one to get a refresh. The OEM has added two high-end wireless access points – the Catalyst 9136 and the Meraki MR57 – that support WiFi 6E networks. This interface, which is still in its infancy, promises to make more use of the newly available unlicensed 6 GHz wireless spectrum, and products that support it will support more bandwidth and higher data rates. Like a highway going from four to eight lanes, to use the metaphor of Greg Dorai, vice president in charge of the secure access group at Cisco. Both 6E WiFi access points use a flexible tri-band radio that can operate in 2.4GHz and dual 5GHz or 2.45GHz and 6GHz mode, allowing businesses to adapt and optimize their wireless network as WiFi 6E terminals become more widespread, according to Greg Dorai.

Both 6E WiFi boxes feature massive capacity expansion and can connect to IoT devices via USB, Thread, and BLE. According to Dorai, they are well suited to support bandwidth-intensive and low-latency applications, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, video streaming and holographic WebEx (a kind of AR enhanced in done with glasses and gloves, nothing to do with a real holographic projection). The Catalyst 9136 features an algorithm that can optimize spectrum utilization by automatically routing 6E WiFi devices to the 6 GHz band to avoid congestion or interference, according to Dorai.

With the Catalyst 9136 (pictured) and the Meraki MR57, Cisco is upgrading its high-end access points to WiFi 6E. (Credit Cisco)

Cisco’s strengthening of mobile network components was good news for Banita Hyman, director of corporate services, information technology, Norfolk Southern Railway, who spoke via video conference at Cisco’s announcement. . Norfolk Southern built the digital simulation of a railway with a mobile-first strategy, Ms Hyman said. “Safety is a key aspect of our return to work model, and our support for how the mobile app we built has allowed us to eliminate a lot of touchpoints in the building. »

Private 5G services

Along with these hardware announcements, Cisco also announced a private, managed 5G service that the provider will offer that will include integration with carriers and third-party partners. “With Cisco Private 5G delivered as a service, partners can white-label a powerful 5G IoT offering while avoiding the costly and time-consuming start-up costs of solution development,” said Chris Stori. The cloud-based solution will include features such as secure IoT device integration, management of 5G and industrial IoT networks, and support for Cisco’s identity and policy system.

The latter sees this service as a complementary offer to WiFi. “There are enough use cases, enough spectrum needs, for the two to coexist. For a lot of indoor use cases, WiFi usually does the trick. For cases where you need 9999999 reliability, dedicated spectrum with private 5G is better and outdoors with great coverage like in a warehouse, private 5G is better,” Todd Nightingale pointed out. Further details about the service will be revealed at the end of the month at MWC 2022 in Barcelona, ​​Stori concluded.

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