Tag Archive for Ethernet

Whats Up With Cisco?

Whats Up With Cisco?What is up with Cisco? Their fiscal results for the recently closed 2017 Q3 showed revenue of $11.9 billion, a 1% decline in revenue, compared to the same quarter last year. This is the 6th consecutive down quarter. The networking goliath also issued downward guidance for 2017 Q4. They estimated a revenue declines of 4-6% year-over year.

Cisco logoOn the earnings call, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins blamed several factors for the lower guidance. He cited:

  • “a pretty significant stall right now” in the U.S. federal public sector
  • Service provider revenues were down in Mexico.
  • United Kingdom business is being dampened by currency issues.
  • Middle East, there is “pressure… relative to oil prices.”

Then there are the layoffs. Cisco buried the announcement in a footnote in the company’s SEC 8-K report that 1,100 more layoffs are coming, on top of the 5,500 announced Layoffsin August 2016.

In May 2017, we extended the restructuring plan to include an additional 1,100 employees with $150 million of estimated additional pretax charges.

According to SDXCentral, the Cisco CEO stressed several times on the earnings call, that the company is transitioning to more software and subscription-based business. He declared,

I am pleased with the progress we are making on the multi-year transformation of our business.

These weak fiscal results and the move to a subscription-based business have led to speculation about what the Cisco business will look like in the future. TechTarget speculates that Cisco may go so far as to separate the Network Operating System (NOS) from the hardware. They contend that such a move would be a dramatic departure from Cisco’s traditional business model of bundling high-margin hardware with its NOS. The author believes that market trends will likely force the vendor to release an open NOS.

Cisco Catalyst 3750-E.TechTarget cites reports from the The Information that a hardware-independent NOS called Lindt is coming. Reportedly Lindt will run on a white box powered by merchant silicon. According to the article, a number of market trends are driving the move to a hardware-independent NOS.

The first market trend forcing Cisco to release a hardware-independent NOS is the company’s declining dominance of the Ethernet switch market. Since 2011, the company’s share has dropped from about 75% to less than 60% last year, according to the financial research site Trefis. The decline is important to Cisco’s bottom line because switches accounted for 40% of Cisco’s product sales in 2016, 30% of net revenues and 20% of the company’s $162 billion valuation, Trefis reported.

Infrastructure as a ServiceCisco’s weakening performance in switching is tied to the second market trend forcing Cisco to release a hardware-independent NOS. It’s customers are turning to public cloud providers, such as Amazon (AMZN) Web Services, Microsoft (MSFT) Azure and IBM (IBM) SoftLayer, for their IT infrastructure. The more enterprises subscribe to infrastructure as a service, the less networking gear they need in their data centers.

The shift to cloud providers is found in the latest numbers from Synergy Research Group. Revenue from public cloud infrastructure services is growing at almost 50% a year. In the fourth quarter of last year, revenues topped $7 billion.

Cloud providersThe third market trend forcing Cisco to release a hardware-independent NOS is the trend where enterprises that were Cisco’s largest customers are joining cloud providers in building open networking hardware and software to replace inflexible proprietary systems that lock them to a vendor. Those companies include large financial institutions, like Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Fidelity Investments, and communication service providers, such as AT&T (T), Deutsche Telekom and Verizon (VZ).

The technology shift is driving an enormous amount of spending on IT infrastructure. Worldwide spending on public and private cloud environments will increase 15% this year from 2016 to $42 billion, according to IDC. Meanwhile, spending in Cisco’s core market of traditional infrastructure for noncloud data centers will fall by 5%.

Arista NetworksWhile Cisco is ignoring the trend away from proprietary hardware, the article says Cisco’s rivals are embracing it. Juniper Networks (JNPR) and Arista Networks (ANET) have released a version of their NOS for white boxes favored by cloud providers and large enterprises. Both companies reported year-to-year revenue growth in switching last year. Even Cisco’s patent lawsuit against upstart Arista was set-back by the courts.

Rohit Mehra, an analyst at IDC hypothesized that Cisco’s resistance to change is likely due to fear that giving customers other hardware options would accelerate declining sales in switching. “There would be potentially some risk of cannibalization in the enterprise space,” he added.

Cisco insists its customers are not interested in buying networking software that’s separate from the underlying switch. The Cisco spokesperson told TechTarget:

Cisco insists its customers are not interested

The vast majority of our customers see tremendous value in the power and efficiency of Cisco’s integrated network platforms, and the tight integration of hardware and software will continue to be the basis of the networking solutions we offer our customers

TechTarget adds that Cisco doesn’t say the article is wrong. Instead, the company falls back on a corporate cliché for refusing to discuss a media report. “We don’t comment on rumor or speculation,” a Cisco spokesperson said.

The networking market is evolving away from the hardware that Cisco depends on for much of its valuation. Cisco will resist changing its market approach for as long as possible. But in the end, the company will have to become a part of the trend with an open NOS capable of running on whatever hardware the customer chooses.

Mergers and acquisitionsRather than change its model for selling networking gear, Cisco has spent billions of dollars on acquisitions over the last few years to create software and subscription-based businesses in security and analytics. But Cisco’s software push has yet to pay off with 5 conservative down quarters.

Finally, Cisco just recently patched a flaw in IOS software that affected more than 300 models of its switches. Despite issuing an advisory on March 17, Cisco did not release the patch for this vulnerability until May 8, 2017. The Cisco vulnerability was part of the Vault 7 WikiLeaks dump of alleged CIA hacking tools.

Alleged CIA hacking toolsThe vulnerability, rated a critical 9.8 out of 10 by the Common Vulnerability Scoring System, is in the Cluster Management Protocol, or CMP. could allow a remote, unauthenticated attacker to reload devices or execute code with elevated privileges. This vulnerability can be exploited during Telnet session negotiation over either IPv4 or IPv6.

Related articles

Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Limes in Your Data Center

Times are changing in the data center. For decades data centers were wired with orange multi-mode fiber optic cable. MMF is the choice for the date center connections because it is smaller and faster than copper and cheaper and more forgiving than single mode fiber optic cables typically used for long haul transmissions. The orange flavor of MMF was pulled into data centers to deploy Gigabit Ethernet.

Multimode fiber optic cableThis type of MMF would work with links up to 600 meters. MMF uses the 850 nm and 1300 nm wavelength to transmit data. The typical MMF is 62.5/125 µm which means it has a core size of 62.5 micrometres (µm) and a cladding diameter of 125 µm, OM1 (“OM” stand for optical multi-mode). A second generation of MMF is 50/125 µm (OM2). These cables used LED transmitters. Newer installations often used laser-optimized 50/125 µm multi-mode fiber (OM3). MMF that meet this designation have enough bandwidth to support 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) up to 300 meters.

10 GigE is a great technology, but many organizations have outgrown it. New variants of Ethernet can reach speeds of 25 Gbps, 40 Gbps, 100 Gbps and soon, up to 800 GigE is needed to keep up with the new requirements of enterprise and cloud data centers.

Data centerThe industry determined that a new type of fiber was needed to physically pass the bits back and forth at these new speeds and yet maintain backwards compatibility with older installations. In October 2016, the international cabling standards development body International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) decided that the new standard would be called OM5.

Cabling Installation & Maintenance magazine reports that the new OM5 standard was developed to meet the increasing bandwidth demands but maintain compatibility with older MMF installations, “The standard specifies 50/125-micron laser-optimized fiber that is optimized for enhanced performance for single-wavelength or multi-wavelength transmission systems with wavelengths in the vicinity of 850nm to 950nm.”

Multimode fiber optic cableSr. Fiber Product Manager at Legrand Randy Harris, explained that OM5 fiber is a new type of 50 micron core, laser optimized multimode fiber (LOMF) designed to provide better performance for applications using wavelength division multiplexing (WDM). It operates over a wider window in the range of 850nm to 953nm to support at least four wavelengths. Swiss-based cabling provider R&M says OM5 fiber-optic cabling supports duplex transmission by sending four wavelengths over a single multimode fiber to create future bandwidths up to 200 Gbps.

Cindy Montstream explained in an article published in Cabling Installation & Maintenance magazine in September 2016,

The 40 GE SWDM4 and 100 GE SWDM4 specifications support transmission over duplex OM3, OM4 and OM5 multimode fiber types. Maximum reaches vary from 75 to 440 meters depending on data rate and fiber type. The group added that in the future, SWDM technology could be leveraged to enable 200-, 400-, and 800-Gbit/sec Ethernet traffic on multimode fiber cabling as well.

LimesIn June 2016, a Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) TR-42 subcommittee approved the new standard, which specifies wideband multimode fiber. In February 2017, the TIA TR-42.12 Optical Fibers and Cables subcommittee approved lime green as the OM5 jacket color. At that time it also approved a project to develop Addendum 2 to the TIA-598-D standard.

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The evolution of Ethernet is driving changes in the data center. The IEEE has developed a couple of new standards for Etherntet, which I wrote about here. The new standards include IEEE 802.3by, which covers 25 Gb/s switch interconnects for data centers.

In well done cable installations cables can be distinguished by jacket color:

  • Orange jackets indicate legacy 62.5/125 µm (OM1) and 50/125 µm (OM2) fiber-optic cabling
  • Aqua jackets show 50/125 µm “laser optimized” OM3 and OM4 fiber fiber-optic cabling
  • Lime-green jackets  50/125 µm “laser optimized” OM5 fiber-optic cabling
  • Yellow jackets indicate single mode fiber-optic cabling

It took decades to install all the orange old-school MMF, it is going to take several more decades to get it all uninstalled.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for a while and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Sun Setting on Cat5e

Sun Setting on Cat5eThe sun is setting on the Cat 5e cabling standard. The long standing standard defined now most commercial spaces around the world were cabled for nearly 20 years. Starting in 2017 Cat 5e will be considered obsolete for new installations following a decision by the ISO/IEC cabling standards body.

CablesAccording to a recent blog post at CommScope (COMM), the ISO cabling standards body JTC1/SC25 WG3 working group agreed to raise the minimum horizontal cabling requirement stated in ISO/IEC 11801-2 for offices from Class D (Category 5e) to Class E (Category 6), with a recommendation for Class EA (Category 6A) to enable a smooth migration to 2.5, 5 and ultimately 10 gigabits per second (Gbps). In the drafts of 11801-5 (data centers) and 11801-6 (distributed services), the minimum requirement is already Class EA cabling.

The original ISO/IEC 11801 standard enabled the explosive growth and mass deployment of Ethernet and IP communications everywhere in the world. In its first edition, the author says the standard defined Class D balanced cabling based on Category 5 copper components to provide an upgrade path from 10 to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) up to 100 meters. At that time, some experts and industry observers argued that 100 Mbps (100BASE-T) to the desk was overkill for the typical office user.

Handful of Cat 5eToday, 100BASE-T technology is in rapid market decline, being replaced with 1000BASE-T (1 Gbps) according to the article. 1000BASE-T is commonplace for desktop and laptop PC’s, as well as a wide range of other devices such as phones, cameras and wireless access points (WAPs).

The 11801 standard now includes additional cabling classes that were introduced to enable support of up to 10 Gbps, including the addition of Class E (Category 6), Class F (Category 7) and more recently, Class EA (Category 6A) and Class FA (Category 7A).

According to the CommScope blog, a number of technology trends made ISO elect to upgrade the minimum recommendation for the horizontal cabling in offices. Some of the trends recognized by the committee that are driving the adoption of speeds beyond one Captain Ethernetgigabit on the horizontal cabling include:

The rapid growth of BYOD is driving infrastructure upgrades to accommodate IEEE 802.11ac. As I have covered before, new IEEE specifications are being developed to accommodate for 802.11ac wireless. 2.5GBASE-T, is targeted at installed Class D cabling and 5GBASE-T is targeted at installed Class E cabling. It is expected that a sizable percentage of the installed base will be able to support the faster speeds, however some installed Class D and Class E systems may be require some mitigation steps.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Wi-Fi Charges Up Ethernet

Wi-Fi Charges Up EthernetInformation Technology prognosticators Gartner (IT) predicts that 40% of enterprises will use Wi-Fi as the default connection for mobile and non-mobile devices by 2018 according to Fred Donovan at FierceMobileIT. The prediction says that typically fixed location devices like; desktops, desk phones, projectors and conference rooms will use Wi-Fi as their primary connection.

Enterprise Wi-FiGartner says Wi-Fi is facilitating BYOD. The enterprise Wi-Fi network now allows workers to choose any device and move anywhere in the workplace. Gartner argues that the introduction of security measures like 802.1X augmented with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption has lessened IT’s worry about security breaches involving the Wi-Fi infrastructure. Ken Dulaney, V.P. and distinguished analyst at Gartner said;

Ethernet cabling has been the mainstay of the business workspace connectivity since the beginning of networking. However, as smartphones, laptops, tablets and other consumer devices have multiplied, the consumer space has largely converted to a wireless-first world

Wi-FiAs the first connection to the enterprise infrastructure, Wi-Fi brings workers the ability to choose any device and move anywhere without worry. VP Dulaney continued;

As bring your own device (BYOD) has increased in many organizations, the collision of the business and consumer worlds has changed workers’ demands

Cat 5 cablesFurthermore, cabling systems or even peer-to-peer (P2P) wireless solutions using technologies that offer cable replacement have had to deal with a variety of connectors challenges, such as USB and micro-USB, as video systems move beyond Video Graphics Array (VGA). The market research firm also argues that MACD costs will decrease.

Additions, moves and changes are costly inconveniences that waste time for enterprise IT organizations. A move can sometimes involve cabling changes that can cost as much as $1,000 … With Wi-Fi printers, desktops and other devices, all that is required is a cable to the power source, leaving workers free to move themselves making reconfigurations of offices easier.

Because of the many benefits of Wi-FI, Gartner VP Dulaney predicts firms are going to change how they connect;

we expect many organizations to shift to a wireless-by-default and a wired-by-exception model.

Captain EthernetIn order to deal with the new wireless-by-default reality, changes are needed on the wired network.  at FierceCIO reports that the vendor community is working to address the Wi-Fi first world. Unfortunately, there are two industry groups pushing their own new Ethernet specifications. Mr. Mah says that new Ethernet standard are needed to work with Wave 2 of 802.11ac wireless access points (AP) with a theoretical maximum throughput of up to 3.5Gbps.

New standards are needed because existing Gigabit Ethernet is a bottleneck and current alternatives are not attractive. First, link-aggregating two Gigabit Ethernet connections for each Wi-Fi AP would need additional cabling and more expensive managed switches to support it. Using 10GbE would be an overkill. Upgrading to 10GbE is a significant investment that includes new Category 6a or Category 7 cables, more power and more cabling.

One faction, the MGBase-T Alliance, formed in June 2014 and includes; Avaya, Aruba Networks (ARUN) and Brocade (BRCD) as well as component vendors Broadcom (BRCM) and Freescale Semiconductor. The other group known as the NBase-T Alliance formed in October 2014. This faction consists of Cisco (CSCO), Intel, Xilinx (XLNX), Freescale and Aquantia, a company that’s already making 2.5G/5G components.

Ethernet cablesAt the moment, the only agreement between the two factions is that 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps speeds are needed. The IEEE 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee has set up the P802.3bz 2.5/5GBase-T Task Force to address this issue. The 2015 Q1 CommScope Standards Advisor reports that the 802.3bz committee as decided so far that:

  • The 2.5 GBase-T option will run on Cat 5e (Class D) 4 pair UTP up to 100M, and
  • The 5 GBase-T option will run on Cat 6 (Class E) 4 pair UTP up to 100M.
  • There is no release date yet

The concern however, is that vendors could jump the gun by shipping pre-standard products ahead of standards rectification, complicating matters and slowing down the development of the pertinent standards.

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Remember 802.11n? Pre-standard products? Given that there is no guarantee that systems built with components from the two groups will work together. Don’t jump the gun – waiting for the standard to solidify before buying into new 2.5G/5G Ethernet networking hardware.

For now, Dell’Oro Group analyst Alan Weckel told FierceCIO is that enterprises will probably be able to buy 2.5G/5G equipment starting in Q2 of 2015. 

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

802.3bt More Power to the People’s Devices

802.3bt More Power to the People's DevicesPower over Ethernet (PoE) powers more than one million end devices today. To continue PoE’s success, the IEEE is answering the market’s demands for more power by developing a third generation of PoE.

The first generation of PoE (2003), 802.3af delivered 12.95 Watts. The second generation, 802.3at (2009) provides 25.5 Watts to the equipment. The new version of PoE, will address the need for higher power PoE. The IEEE has proposed a new standard, 802.3bt, which promises to double the power output of the current 802.3at standard. The new 802.3bt standard, scheduled to be released in 2017, will also adjust PoE to work with 10Gbase-T.

IEEECabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine provides an excellent overview of the new standard. They report that the IEEE 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee which develops and maintains networking standards like Ethernet, VLANs and Wireless LAN, is developing the new standard. The DTE Power via MDI over 4-Pair Task Force is working to specify a set of next-generation PoE specifications, and the levels of power likely to be delivered ultimately via the 802.3bt standard will still work on twisted-pair cable, possibly as a four-pair PoE specification which could improve energy efficiency and offer greater power.

New POE Applications

IndustryApplicationTypical Power Consumption
HealthcareNurse call system30-50W
RetailPoint of sale system30-60W
BankingIP Turrets45W
Building ManagementVariable air volume controllers, Access controllers40-50W
Enterprise ITThin clients, Virtual desktop terminals50W
HospitalityPOE switches45-60W
Premise SecurityPTZ cameras30-60W
IndustrialBrushless drives, Motor control>30W
VariousDigital signage>30W
VariousMultichannel wireless access points>30W
via CommScope

The new PoE standard will support 10GBase-T. The 10GBase-T standard uses all 4 pairs to send data. These facts will force the IEEE committee to figure out how to keep the power from interfering with the data on the same wires to supply a minimum of 49 watts at the powered device. One of the key parameters the article mentions is to limit pair-to-pair current imbalance.

Power over EthernetOther goals for the “bt” standard are: to be backward-compatible with “af” and “at.” and increased energy efficiency. According to the article, a global move to 4-pair POE systems would create potential energy savings of 60.8 million kilowatt-hours which would prevent greenhouse gasses from 66 million pounds of coal saved annually.

Paul Vanderlaan, technical manager of cable maker Berk-Tek – Nexans’ advanced design and applications lab and other cabling-industry technical experts believe that 802.3bt’s support of 10GBase-T means that the minimum twisted-pair cabling system requirement will increase.  In order to support 10GBase-T it seems likely that a Category 6A system will be the recommendation. The author notes that the IEEE does not address  cabling performance, that is the focus of groups like the TIA or ISO/IEC.

10GBase-TThe transition to the new PoE standard will not be simple. CommScope published a white paper where they explain:

… Category 5e cabling only provides the minimum level of performance required. Therefore, it is recommended to use Category 6 or Category 6A cabling-preferably solutions … 

Berk-Tek’s Vanderlaan explained why Category 6A cabling is the prefered system. He summarizes the electrical-engineering calculations;

As a general rule, increased copper content, or larger gauge size, will aid in power delivery … when you migrate … you should see larger gauge sizes and more copper content.

performance characteristicsUnder the new standard users will have to pay attention to new cabling-system performance characteristics like DC resistance unbalance and pair-to-pair resistance imbalance.  The higher wattages up to 1 full amp (1,000 milliamps) will present challenges to performance requirements. Mr. Vanderlaan told Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine:

For users, cable selection will be based not just on the speed that can be supported, but rather on speed as well as power delivery. What you simply plug in today, you may want to also power in the future.

A new challenge cable plant owners will have to consider is heat. CommScope explains that heat generated within bundles of cables supporting IEEE 802.3bt could rise enough to effect performance.

ambient temperature … the temperature of the cabling will rise due to heat generation in the copper conductors  … the temperature of the cable bundle higher than the ambient temperature of the surrounding environment … The IEEE 802.3bt four-pair PoE standard is expected to assume a maximum temperature rise of 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees F) when all four pairs are energized … the ambient temperature should not exceed 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees F) … CommScope recommends Category 6A cabling for four-pair PoE applications. Because increased thermal loading can also increase insertion loss, the maximum cable length should be de-rated for higher temperatures, per ANSI/TIA-568-C.2.

Several vendors have already released pre-standard device-powering systems to meet users’ current needs.

As in the pre-PoE standard days, Cisco (CSCO) has marketed proprietary PoE systems since 2011. Cisco’s Universal Power Over Ethernet (UPOE) technology, which delivers 60 watts of power to devices powered by the Catalyst 4500E; some of those devices include Cisco IP phones, personal telepresence systems, compact switches and wireless access points.

Also, the non-standard Power Over HDBase-T (POH) was introduced by the HDBase-T Alliance a trade group that promotes and standardize HDBase-T technology for whole-home distribution of uncompressed high-definition (HD) multimedia content. This system delivers up to 100 watts of power to TVs and other devices over distances up to 100 meters/320 feet via one Category 5e or 6 cable with standard RJ45 connectors.

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The new standard is a welcome addition to the toolkit. Cost savings is one of the appeals to PoE. On many projects PoE low voltage contractors can do the work rather than electrical contractors.. If the new system pushes the maximum rate to 75W at the devices as some predict, with there be a backlash from the EC’s and authorities having jurisdiction? Time will tell.

In the meantime, the article says  owners and managers should check their current infrastructure with eyes toward how the next generation of devices might be powered via more-capable PoE technology.

Of course it is always a good idea to pull out your acceptance documentation to understand the installed base of cable, and the likelihood that cable has the electrical-performance characteristics required to support a next generation of PoE.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.