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February 28, 2017updated 01 Mar 2017 12:59pm

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins: SDN won’t be the death of hardware

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins talks software-defined networking at Mobile World Congress.

By James Nunns

Here at Mobile World Congress there’s plenty of talk about the future of networks, with much of that talk focused on software, particularly Software Defined Networking. While SDN is a key talking point it doesn’t spell the end of hardware, at least according to Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins.

At a press conference attended by CBR, the CEO said: “The internet and the traffic that runs on the internet – I think it’s increasing, and I don’t think that increased traffic loads is going to result in a lack of a need for high performance hardware.

cisco ceo chuck robbins

Chuck Robbins, Cisco CEO

“I think there will be plenty of use cases where software can absolutely provide solutions, but there will forever be tremendous cases where you need high performance integrated systems, and to me SDN does not obviate the need for hardware, it simply gives you the capability to run this infrastructure and these networks much more effectively and efficiently in an automated way.”

Yvette Kanouff, SVP/GM, Service Provider Business at Cisco followed the comments from Robbins by saying that the company is definitely looking at everything it can move out of the box and that doesn’t need the box, so that the company can maximise performance.

In fact it would seem that the company is moving away from talking about Software Defined Networking all together, as that is now morphing in to Software Defined Automation.

The company is looking at a wide range of areas, and while much of its portfolio is hardware base, there are plenty of examples where it has diversified what it offers in order to tap into other areas such as IoT.

One of the big announcements coming from Cisco at MWC is that Cisco Jasper has completed live trials of Narrow Band-IoT on its Control Centre connectivity management platform. Supported by GSMA, NB-IoT is said to deliver a cost-effective IoT connectivity solution for low-cost devices.

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Then you have the news that Reliance Jio, a LTE mobile network operator in India, which has been working with Cisco to expand the first all IP converged network in India.

The significance of this is the scale. Reliance has made it to 100 million broadband and VoLTE customers in a very short space of time, around 170 days. This works out to roughly seven per second.

The Cisco CEO said that at its peak there were around 2,000 Cisco people aligned with Reliance in order to make this happen.

The work together has seen the Reliance Jio all-IP digital platform built on Cisco’s Open Network Architecture and Cloud Scale Networking technologies that feature IP/MPLS.

The company, which is now handling 34 petabytes of data on a daily basis, is now targeting 400 million customers as soon as possible.

This example of a Cisco success story may be slightly different to what may happen in other countries though, considering that this project was a greenfield site rather than going into a market where there is plenty of infrastructure already in place, but it is certainly an example that shows the kind of scale and speed that Cisco can produce.

With Cisco effectively able to provide all the building blocks, the question can be asked whether it could bypass the telco’s and move into that business sdn

However, Robbins said that the company remains committed to its ecosystem of partners that it has been working with for the past 20 years.

The Cisco CEO said: “I think if you look at what is happening in tech industry, and the shift of the delivery models in tech to be as a service and cloud oriented, I think there are manufacturers and vendors who are choosing to go direct and bypass their ecosystem partners, there are definitely those making that decision.

“I will state that Cisco’s direction is to continue to build our strategy out where we work with and through our ecosystem partners because we believe the complexity and capabilities that will be enabled through all the great tech that’s put together will still require an ecosystem of partners and application developers, great service providers.”

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