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What is Cisco spin-in Insieme Networks building?

Job advertisements published over the last six months by Insieme Networks, Cisco's SDN spin-in, hint at what the company is doing.

Cisco's slow rollout of its multifaceted software-defined networking strategy continued this week with the introduction of the Cisco ONE Controller, which can manage network infrastructure via both OpenFlow and Cisco's proprietary onePK APIs. But networking pros are still waiting to learn what Insieme, the reportedly SDN-focused Cisco spin-in, is up to. A perusal of the job board on Insieme's website offers some hints.

These job listings point to a company that is building very robust data center switches with custom application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), along with some kind of orchestration and automation software for Layer 2 through Layer 7 services.

In August, Insieme was looking for a GUI framework developer with object-oriented Ext JS development skills. The position also required experience with client-side development technologies like JavaScript, HTML, CSS and AJAX-driven Web 2.0 development. Insieme is not working on network management software, and Cisco already has its Cisco ONE Controller, so this position could be focused on developing the management console for some kind of orchestration system for cloud and data center networks. Or perhaps it's a more polished software-defined networking (SDN) controller.

Later that month, the company started seeking a director of quality assurance with virtualization, networking and data center experience, and about 10 junior software developers with C programming skills and network development experience. These are the guys who are building and testing some kind of network software. Cisco probably hires dozens of junior C programmers every quarter, so this is pretty standard stuff. The company also needed a senior interface infrastructure developer with experience in developing large-scale logical interface constructs. These constructs store the characteristics of network protocols and assign them to physical interfaces. This person is probably working on a big, big switch (whether physical or virtual).

In September, we had signs of hardware development, specifically ASIC design. Insieme started looking for a signal integrity engineer with experience working with high-speed package and board signal integrity, various high-speed Ethernet interfaces and DDR2 and DDR3 RAM technology. This sounds like the building blocks of an ASIC. This job also requires experience with simulation tools used for integrated circuit design (ANSYS, Cadence, Sigrity, etc.).

In November, Insieme started seeking more software engineers, this time with specific experience in writing software for embedded systems, particularly networking processor programming. "High-end system diagnosis and ASIC bring-up experience is a plus," the listing said.

In January, Insieme sought a software engineer to create graphical user interface (GUI) management for network infrastructure and a quality assurance/system test engineer with scripting skills (Python, TCL or Perl), knowledge of Layer 2/3 technology and troubleshooting skills in Layer 2 through 7. The listing also said "background with "virtualization, OpenFlow, cloud technologies, intelligent network services and large data center automation" is a plus.

And finally, just a week ago, Insieme published a listing for an ASIC verification engineer.

Whatever Insieme is working on, it involves ASIC design, network software development and data center network orchestration and automation. It almost sounds like the company is working on an alternative to Juniper QFabric, but I doubt that is the case. Instead, I'm sure they're working on switches with custom silicon (a Cisco staple) and some orchestration software (perhaps based on software-defined networking principles) aimed at building scalable and efficient cloud networks. How this will integrate into Cisco's Open Network Environment is anyone's guess.

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