Tag Archive for Switch

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.

PoE Overworked

PoE Overworked Gary Audin at No Jitter warns that Power over Ethernet (PoE) is not always a plug-and-play environment and PoE should be monitored, managed, and efficient. In this article Mr. Audin observes that PoE has evolved into an electrical power device utility platform. POE started out as a centralized power source for IP phones, backed up with a Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). (rb- Click here and here for my overview of PoE) Since those early Cisco dominated days. The article says PoE now is called upon to support wireless access points; environmental controls; point, tilt, and zoom cameras; lighting control; clocks; door controls; Bluetooth devices; RFID; now laptops, and still more to come .

Power over EthernetThe LAN switch is the PoE source, but the article warns it can be overwhelmed with the power drain, which produces headaches for IT. Unless properly managed, the PoE function can experience:

  • A blown out power supply. Smoke is an indicator of this condition.
  • Reduced power to all devices with degraded service from all the attached devices.
  • An added PoE device does not work.
  • The more power drawn by PoE, the shorter the UPS battery life. The original UPS design could last 20 minutes. Added PoE devices could shorten this to 3 minutes.

PoE IP phones and other devices can signal to the PoE network what class of device it belongs to and how much power it may need. Class 0 devices, usually older devices, do not indicate their PoE power requirements. These devices may draw any power level from none to maximum. The other standard classes, 1-3, range from very low power to mid-level power consumption.

Class 4 is a newer class of device requiring PoE+ (802.1at) and needs to draw more than the 12.95 Watt maximum provided by the original standard PoE. Class 4 devices must be powered by PoE+ ports and may not function correctly on an 802.3af PoE port. Most IP phones are in class 2. IP phones with color screens and other advanced features may be categorized as class 3 devices.

POE Classes

PoE Access Points Wireless LAN access points are also common PoE devices, many of which started out as class 2 and 3 devices. As the wireless speeds increased, so did the power requirements. The 802.11ac standard means that the access points (AP) will have 1 Gbps connections back to the switches and routers.

MonitoringAt issue is the PoE required. It is likely that each AP could need 20 to 30 watts, the limit that the 802.1at PoE+ standard delivers. Many installed switches cannot support PoE+. So the enterprise has to buy new switches or power supplies or power injectors. (rb- add this to you site-survey when you plan to implement 802.11ac)

Mr. Audin spoke to Tim Titus, CTO and founder of PathSolutions, (they happen to sell a network management tool) about what he considers a good approach to monitoring and managing POE. He told No Jitter,

“Regardless of whether there are any PoE or PoE+ devices on a network, it can be very helpful to monitor the health of our network equipment’s power supplies. The best monitoring system watches the status and power consumption of each power supply, what percentage of utilization it is running, and which interfaces are drawing power, so power policing can be achieved.”

He provided this example of missing power management.

“Keeping an eye on power supplies avoids unpleasant discoveries. One unlucky network administrator had two power supplies installed in a network chassis (one primary and one backup). Unfortunately, when the primary power supply stopped working, nobody knew, since the backup power supply was doing its job of keeping everything running. The problem wasn’t noticed for over six months. Nobody was in the empty remote wiring closet to notice the lack of lights on the power supply. The users remained blissfully unaware of impending doom until the wee hours of a weekend when the second power supply was shut off by a circuit-breaker trip!” 

Mr. Titus pointed out to Mr. Audin, that monitoring should happen at the port level,

“Not only will a monitoring system show you what mode a PoE port is operating in, but it should also provide a view of relevant error counters.

  • MPS Absent and Invalid Signature errors frequently point to broken or defective powered devices.
  • Overload conditions and short-circuits typically point to wiring problems (or somebody re-wiring devices in use).
  • Denied errors can point to devices asking for more power than the switch has available, and may indicate that it is time to consider adding another power supply to a large Ethernet chassis.”
Confused

How did that happen?

Finally, many network engineers try to buy limited PoE due to the cost premium of POE ports, only to find that half of their PoE ports used by non-PoE devices such as PCs. With a monitoring tool, the engineers could have avoided buying expensive PoE ports, or purchased less expensive “ordinary” Ethernet ports.  The engineers should have an up-to-date PoE port inventory and use it to avoid over-buying the PoE by playing safe in their design. (rb- Been there done that, I’ve been in many customers closets and found POE switches full of PC and printer access ports.)

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The author warns not assume that PoE is always a plug-and-play environment. PoE should be handled like a utility–monitored, managed, and efficient.

I have tried build custom fields by working with and reports in SolarWind’s Orion by working with MIB’s, it’s not the funnest thing on the world. I wonder if this product does a better job.

Intel Shows TBps Connections

The EETimes reports that researchers at Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) have demonstrated optical chips can transmit up to terabit-per-second of data transmission. The new silicon photonic chips will replace copper connections in everything from supercomputers to servers to PCs chips predicts Intel. The new chips can currently transmit data at 50 Gigabits per second (Gbps).  50 Gbps equates to transferring an HD movie a second.

“This milestone marks the beginning of silicon photonics in the high-volume marketplace, in applications from [high-performance computing] all the way down to the client PC,” said Mario Paniccia, director of Intel’s Photonics Technology Lab. “We see a clear development path from 50 Gbps today to a terabit in the future” Paniccia told EETimes.

Intel says that optical connections could eventually replace the copper connections between systems and even between boards in the same system and down to cores on the same board. Paniccia estimated that the first commercial applications of silicon photonics will begin appearing in as little as five years in data centers and supercomputer facilities.

The modulators required to encode optical information using signal waveguides and photodiodes are cast in silicon on custom chips designed by Intel. The transmitter chip uses Intel’s hybrid silicon laser technology that bonds a small indium phosphide die to on-chip silicon waveguides, four of which are patterned into a connected optical laser.  “We combined our silicon manufacturing techniques with our hybrid laser, and demonstrated an integrated transmitter using four lasers each operating at a different wavelengths and four silicon modulators each operating at 12.5 Gbps, then combined them together into an aggregate 50 Gbps  into the optical fiber,” said Paniccia.

The optical fiber output on the receiver chip is then filtered into separate colors and diverted by waveguides into four separate photodiodes, each of which receives one of the four separate 12.5-Gbps channels. In the future Intel plans to add more lasers per chip and  increase the number of channels. Intel believes that it can put 25 lasers on a single chip to produce the 1 Tbps capabilities.  It then hopes to commercialize the optical connection technology.  Intel has been developing the technology since 2004.

Intel  already has a 10-Gbps Light Peak chip that uses conventional optical technologies that is aimed at reducing the number of port connections on a computer.  The Silicon Photonics Link is different from Light Peak technology. Intel’s Light Peak technology – an optical cable that is aimed at reducing the number of port connections on a computer. said it used traditional optical devices and scaling it beyond 10 Gbps  speeds would be difficult.

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For some perspective the 1 terabit per second link could transfer the entire printed collection of the Library of Congress in 1.5 minutes.

Intel is preaching high bandwidth and low cost with these chips. If Intel can deliver, it could change the nature of system design. Theoretically these chips could allow system components to the spaced further apart without the performance hit. With these chips data center expansion could be down the hall instead a full re-design. Now it may be cheaper to take the new gear to the available electrical panel rather than adding a new panel to the server room.

Intel’s Paniccia told VentureBeat that the accuracy of the data transfer is superb. So far, it has been proven to be able to transfer data with no errors for 27 hours straight, which means it can transfer more than a petabyte of data without an error.