Cisco has reportedly built a new network operating system that will allow users to run its most sophisticated networking features on older and lower-cost Cisco routers and switches, CRN has learned.
The move to potentially disrupt its networking hardware business was first reported by The Information, which said that Cisco, for now, was not looking to have its networking operating system available for non-Cisco switches.
Customers who want to run the new operating system, known as Lindt, will be able to move away from switches based on proprietary high-performance Cisco chips to hardware that works with lower-cost chips, according to the report.
Cisco did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Partners told CRN that Cisco might feel a financial impact as it becomes less hardware-centric, but they did not expect their Cisco sales to take a big hit in the short term.
"It may be the right time for Cisco to jump in the deep end of software," said one executive from a solution provider and longtime Cisco partner, who declined to be named.
"Always tying the software to the hardware [made it so] you had to renew the software with the product. Having the flexibility of owning the software and having more flexibility of changing the platform underneath that – whether it's Cisco or a third-party – to me, that's very attractive."
The decision to reportedly offer its networking operating system separate from the Cisco hardware is an interesting one, according to another solution provider close to Cisco who requested anonymity.
"I doubt Cisco would let it run on non-Cisco boxes," the solution provider said. "But running the software on lower-cost boxes is what big customers will demand. And Cisco can do it cheaper this way."
Indeed, Cisco has been moving to embrace delivering networking functions on a wider variety of platforms, even standard, off-the-shelf servers in virtualised environments. Cisco offers a broad range of networking switches from low-cost desktop models to core data centre models, as well as virtual switches for VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V virtualised and private cloud environments.
The company also offers software-defined networking technology which removes the management layer and switching technology from physical switches to move the networking functionality into the network itself. However, The Information's report does not directly tie the move to separate Cisco's networking software from hardware to software-defined networking.