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Cisco held its annual Packet Optical Networking Conference (PONC) during June 28 – 30. Over 500 people from more than 200 companies attended the virtual event. The overarching theme of 2022’s PONC was the evolution of Routed Optical Networking (or RON), which embodies Cisco’s vision for service provider networks centered around pluggable coherent optics, massively scalable routers, and the unique value such a combination can offer network operators.

  • Routed Optical Networking: Explained
  • Introducing the NCS 1010 Open Line System
  • Bright 400ZR+ Update
  • Future Coherent and Transponder Upgrades
  • Doubling down on Private Line Emulation
  • Conclusion: Cisco has little to lose with RON
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RON Explained

The initial vision for RON announced in March 2021 shortly after the acquisition of Acacia, was more than yet another attempt at pushing IP-over-DWDM into the mainstream. It proposed a novel overhaul of service provider networks, eliminating not just the OTN switching layer, but also transponders, and even optical layer switching (ROADM). This “hop-by-hop” architecture promised to converge all network traffic onto a flat packet network leveraging the never-ending scale of routers, riding atop a simple optical layer consisting of ubiquitous and low-cost 400G coherent pluggable optics.

And while the audacity of this proposal garnered significant attention, customers and competitors alike quickly pushed back. Technologies such as high-performance non-pluggable optics, optical bypass via ROADM, and private line services via OTN aren’t merely vestiges of the days when routers were expensive and slow (and hence needed to be bypassed using lower, less expensive, and faster layers). They perform critical functions in Service Provider networks, particularly in the delivery of profitable long-haul private line and wavelength services.

Given this, Cisco has responded with a slate of new product developments, which were the focus of an announcement prior to PONC, and the thrust of the content at the event.

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