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Cisco's switching updates focus on high availability, PoE

Cisco is rounding out its switching portfolio with a pair of new supervisors, as well as LAN access interface modules and other devices, making high availability and PoE-enabled products more affordable.

Cisco Systems Inc. today filled out its switching portfolio with devices designed to make high availability, power over Ethernet and 10 Gigabit Ethernet features more affordable.

Highlighting the slew of releases is the Catalyst 6500 Supervisor Engine 32, an update to the brains behind its high-end modular switch family.

According to John McCool, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Gigabit switching business unit, the 6500 Supervisor Engine 32 is focused on the access layer and offers many of the capabilities of the Supervisor Engine 720, such as multiple CPU rate limiters for denial-of-service mitigation. It also offers upgrade support for advanced IP services, such as hardware GRE, IPv6 and MPLS, and support for sub-second stateful switchover, which quickly moves IP phone calls and wireless LAN connections to another supervisor during a failover without dropped connections.

McCool said the device is capable of running a diagnostic while still operating, thanks to new diagnostic capabilities in the Cisco IOS. "It's not just about recovering from a fault," he said. "We're placing a lot of emphasis on the ability to avoid faults in the first place."

The Catalyst 6500 Supervisor Engine 32 will come in two versions: one with eight Gigabit Ethernet uplinks that will debut next month for about $10,000, and another with two 10 Gigabit Ethernet uplinks that will be available in February for $20,000.

Cisco is also announcing a new mid-range supervisor, the Catalyst 4500 Supervisor V-10 GE. Along with a pair of 10 Gigabit Ethernet wire-speed uplinks, it offers many of the same features as the high-end device, such as sub-second stateful switchover and security features.

"With this new supervisor, an existing 4500 customer can swap out just the supervisor, replace it with this and be able to upgrade their modular system to 10 Gigabit Ethernet," said McCool. It will be available next month for $19,995.

To complement the new supervisors, Cisco is concurrently updating its Catalyst 6500 LAN access interface modules. It's unveiling a pair of 48-port modules that support power over Ethernet, rapid cable fault detection, enhanced QoS and Gigabit Ethernet support.

Another new 48-port module offers 100 Mbps fiber-to-the-desktop for customers with concerns about copper cabling, and a fourth module offers 96 ports, 10/100 Mbps speeds and PoE support. Pricing per device starts at $6,000 and tops out at $14,000.

Additionally, Cisco is adding switches that support 10 Gigabit Ethernet to its 3750 and 3560 product lines. Four of the eight new 24- and 48-port devices offer power over Ethernet support of up to 370 watts, eliminating the need for an external power supply. Available now, they range from $4,795 to $15,495.

Plus, the company is announcing a Gigabit Ethernet IP phone, the 7971G-GE, enabling enterprises to extend GigE connectivity from the switch to a user's phone and desktop PC.

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Joel Conover, principal analyst of enterprise infrastructure at Sterling, Va.-based research firm Current Analysis, said the GigE phone is "massively significant" because it not only allows a PC to plug into the phone and access the high bandwidth, but it also helps save money by helping consolidate a company's wiring infrastructure.

The phone is identical to the 7970G, offering a backlit color touch-screen display, eight line keys, five soft keys and power over Ethernet support. Available now, it sells for $845.

Conover said that with these releases, specifically the updated supervisors, Cisco is successfully building momentum behind the concept of ultra-high network availability in the enterprise.

Conover said from a technology standpoint, vendors have taken radically different approaches to achieve the always-on availability that networked applications like VoIP demand, but Cisco is diligently working to reduce the cost of that capability.

"For Cisco, this announcement brings high availability down to an affordable level, and accessible in a wide range of products," Conover said. "With its voice strategy, it needs to show customers that its infrastructure can be up on a 24/7/365 basis, and it's getting much closer to that."

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