Cisco Readies 400G Network Switches for Data Centers

Cisco announced its first set of 400G data center network switches•Two of the switches are aimed at hyperscale cloud platforms, while the other two are for tech-savvy enterprises, and service providers•There is pent-up demand for 400G among hyperscalers, and all big network vendors are expected to ship the technology in 2019

Wylie Wong, Regular Contributor

October 31, 2018

4 Min Read
The Cisco Nexus 3408 400GbE switch
The Cisco Nexus 3408 400GbE switchCisco

Cisco on Wednesday announced its first set of 400G data center network switches aimed at alleviating the bandwidth needs of hyperscale cloud companies, large corporations, and service providers. 

The two new Cisco Nexus 3400-S switches are for hyperscalers with high-bandwidth needs for things like video streaming, while the two new Nexus 9000 switches are for high-end enterprises taking advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning and service providers building 5G networks, Thomas Scheibe, VP of product management for Cisco Data Center Switching, told Data Center Knowledge.

These next-generation 400G (Gigabit Ethernet) switches have four times more throughput than the networking giant’s current 100G offerings. Cisco expects to ship them in the first half of 2019.

“We think 400GbE is the next frontier,” Scheibe said. “One hundred gig has been reality for three years, and 400 gig is about to become reality.”

Network equipment vendors are all racing to bring their 400G data center switches to market. Arista Networks announced plans for its first 400G switches last week, while Juniper Networks released details of its forthcoming 400GbE switches in July. Cisco, for its part, previously demonstrated its 400GbE switch technology this past summer.

Related:Data Center Networks are Getting Faster and Smarter


The Cisco Nexus 3432D 400GbE switch

“Everybody who sells to hyperscalers – whether that be Cisco, Juniper, Arista, or the white-box ODMs – will need to have 400GbE data center switches in their portfolio in 2019,” Brad Casemore, IDC’s VP for data center networks, told Data Center Knowledge. “There’s really no alternative, and that’s why you’ve seen a succession of 400GbE announcements from Juniper, Arista, and Cisco respectively. From a sales standpoint, they will all reach market at about the same time, but nobody wants to get outmaneuvered by a competitor.”

Hyperscalers have been the primary drivers for 400G demand, he said. But other segments of the market, including telecommunications service providers rolling out 5G networks and high-end enterprises in verticals such as financial services, will also adopt the technology.

“Hyperscalers will be first, and they will buy in the greatest volumes, creating the sort of economies of scale that will make 400G more affordable for subsequent buyers,” Casemore said.

Scheibe from Cisco agrees, saying there is pent-up demand among the biggest cloud providers. “All the very large cloud providers will go into trials the first half of 2019, and in one shape or another they will start deploying a 400GbE network in the second half of 2019,” he said.

Related:The Year of 100GbE in Data Center Networks

On the enterprise front, Scheibe said, early adopters of 400G switches will be companies in verticals such as healthcare, insurance, and financial services that need faster data center networks to more quickly perform data analytics using artificial intelligence or machine learning.

Among service providers, telecommunications companies will use the 400G switches to build edge data centers as they build out their 5G networks, he said. That will allow the service providers to provide faster service to their customers, while providing high performance in a small footprint.

“They need a compact network solution at the edge,” Scheibe said.

The New Cisco 400G Switches

Cisco’s two new Nexus 3400-S switches for hyperscale companies will be available for customer evaluations in December. The Nexus 3432D-S switch is a 1RU switch that offers 32 400G ports, while the Nexus 3408-S switch features an eight-slot 4RU chassis that allows for a mix of 100G to 400G connections. Both feature a single 12.8Tbps chip with a 70MB buffer.


The Cisco Nexus 93600CD 400GbE switch

The two new Nexus 9300-GX switches for large enterprises and service providers will be available for customer evaluations during the first quarter of 2019. The Nexus 9316D-GX is a 1RU spine switch with 16 400G ports, while the Nexus 93600CD-GX is a 1RU leaf switch with 28 100G ports and 8 400G ports.

All the 400G switches are flexible and allow data center operators to “break out” a port and use smaller 10G, 25G, 40G, 50G, and 100G connections, Scheibe says.


The Cisco Nexus 9316D 400GbE switch

Intent-Based Networking Support

According to him, Cisco rises above its competition because its switches not only provide faster network speeds but also real-time visibility into network packets, flows, and events. That allows for improved security, automation, visibility, and analytics, he said.

The new Nexus 9300-GX switches fully supports Cisco’s intent-based networking (IBN) products: Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), Cisco’s data center software-defined networking offering which delivers intent through policy-based automation; the Tetration Platform, which uses algorithms to analyze the network in real-time and detects network and security problems; and Network Assurance Engine (NAE), software that verifies network behavior and ensures the network is in compliance with policies and can take corrective action. The new Nexus 3400-S switches provide some of the IBN capabilities, he said.

See also: Intent-Based Networking in the Data Center: Cisco vs. Juniper

About the Author(s)

Wylie Wong

Regular Contributor

Wylie Wong is a journalist and freelance writer specializing in technology, business and sports. He previously worked at CNET, Computerworld and CRN and loves covering and learning about the advances and ever-changing dynamics of the technology industry. On the sports front, Wylie is co-author of Giants: Where Have You Gone, a where-are-they-now book on former San Francisco Giants. He previously launched and wrote a Giants blog for the San Jose Mercury News, and in recent years, has enjoyed writing about the intersection of technology and sports.

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