For me, today’s announcements are the continued build-out of a portfolio that completely changes networking. It’s also a chance to reflect on the Cisco Catalyst series of switches (and now also access points and wireless controllers), and what it means for our customers.
A Twenty-Year Era
I remember a lot of things about starting in tech (and at Cisco) over 20 years ago: nobody was sure if the “dot-com” businesses would last; cell phones were used mostly to talk; and when people mentioned “mobility” they were talking about buying a laptop computer that typically connected through a wire. Wi-Fi had just been invented. When Intel introduced its Pentium 4, some said it was too powerful and besides, why do people need all those graphics capabilities. This was way before streaming services and Fortnite.
In the middle of that, we launched the Catalyst 6000. In some ways we were flying blind, with a hope of what the internet could be. I’m proud to say that the Catalyst 6000 not only performed but endured.
I joined the development team that worked on the Catalyst 6000 seventeen years ago. This switch has been a huge achievement over the past two decades. It is the most successful networking product in our history. It created a massive customer base for Cisco that is the envy of every competitor. Customers appreciated the feature richness, flexibility, and longevity of the product. The Catalyst 6000 has been the heart of mission-critical networks for two decades, delivering unmatched investment protection.
Passing the Baton
With the coming of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G, we will see a new wireless world, reshaping how businesses and consumers interact. These wireless services are significantly faster, with greater capacity and improved latency. In short, they are changing the way we do business.
As we enter this new era, there’s a need for a new generation of Catalyst products. One that’s designed for Intent Based Networking, with a modern programmable OS optimized for Wi-Fi 6 and 5G traffic, and that offers automation, analytics, policy, and security. There’s only one engineering team that can preserve the legacy of the Catalyst 6000 and deliver these new capabilities. That’s our team, the people who built the Catalyst 6000. And today we’re rolling out their latest achievements across enterprise products.
New World, New Products
The new Catalyst 9600 modular core switch addresses the demands of Wi-Fi 6, mGig speeds, and security in a cloud-driven world. We’re taking the innovation that we did on Catalyst 6000 and extending the same way of working in routing and software-defined WAN across the entire portfolio, including software and services. This switch will serve as a foundation for the next generation of multi-domain, Intent Based Networks, and will allow customers to create a wireless-first network built as a single fabric for wired and wireless.
To complement the new switch designed for the wireless enterprise, we’re also launching new Wi-Fi 6 access points: Cisco Catalyst 9100s and Cisco Meraki MR 45/55. With options that have custom, programmable chipsets and access to new analytics capabilities, these access points deliver a smarter and more secure wireless network. They are also multilingual, with the ability to communicate with multiple IoT protocols, including BLE, Zigbee and Thread.
Finally, today we announce a Cisco-led federation of Wi-Fi stakeholders (from device manufacturers like Samsung to cellular carrier companies to enterprises) that will make signing on to Wi-Fi automatic, seamless, easy, and secure. Called the Open Roaming consortium, its aim is to solve one of today’s biggest wireless pain points: to make it easier to seamlessly and securely hop between Wi-Fi and cellular networks and onboard public Wi-Fi.
Moving into the Future
We now have one unified operating system and a focus on simplification across the portfolio to drive more consistency throughout our customers’ networks. With this launch, we have built our entire access portfolio with the Catalyst 9000 family for Intent Based Networking – wired and wireless. The teams are really energized right now to take our customers to the next level and make anything possible on the network.
To see it play out in the market with our customers is amazing. The Catalyst 9000 is already the fastest ramping product line in the history of the company.
I’m one of those people who believe we have just gotten started. I’m not only proud of the Catalyst 9000 family, I’m excited. Excited by the possibilities of the future: immersive experience, smart everything, and ultra-reliability. It’s never a good idea to make predictions in IT, but my gut tells me the Catalyst 9000 will be around for at least a decade. Or two.