(UPDATE 9/12, 6:00 a.m. PT — Cisco did indeed announce the chip this morning. It’s called the nPower X1.)
Cisco is close to announcing a next-generation network processor capable of driving system-port speeds of 400G, industry sources say.
It’s not clear what system that chip would go into — whether it’s meant for the system the Insieme spin-in is developing, or whether it’s going into a more “ordinary” next-generation switch or router. In any event, Cisco deems the chip important enough to get its own announcement.
The chip could be launched as early as this week, with the relevant systems potentially announced before (rather than at) John Chambers’s Oct. 2 keynote speech at Interop, sources say.
The chip is definitely aimed at next-generation gear, allowing 400G per port at, reportedly, about one-fourth the power-per-bit of the QuantumFlow, the chip Cisco made a big deal out of back in 2008.
The 400G angle pits the chip against the FP3, the chip inside the Alcatel-Lucent 7750 Service Router product line. The chip does run 400G of traffic in one direction, but it takes two of them to do 400G full-duplex. Cisco’s chip can reportedly do 400G full-duplex on its own.
Cisco is likely to use the chip as further affirmation of its ASIC strategy. Like Juniper and Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco is resolute about designing its own chips, saying it can stay ahead of the merchant-silicon curve (currently exemplified by Broadcom) and that it can better match the chips to the features its gear needs. Cisco Development and Sales President Rob Lloyd is fond of holding these chips up to the crowd during keynote speeches as he boasts about the advantages of Cisco’s ASIC production, so maybe he’ll get his chance with this new processor soon enough.
And yes, there’s a software-defined networking (SDN) angle here: The network processor apparently packs some technology to enable on-the-fly network programming. Whether that’s plain OpenFlow or VXLAN support, or something more elaborate, isn’t clear.
But sources seemed to think Cisco will tie the new chip more to the Internet of Everything than to SDN.
Cisco couldn’t immediately be reached for comment but typically doesn’t respond to rumors anyway.
(Featured image taken from Cisco’s QuantumFlow video.)