Cisco bolsters branch switches, routers

Cisco Catalyst switch gets big upgrade, edge router gets denser

Cisco Tuesday announced a doubly powerful Catalyst Ethernet switch, a condensed edge router and a slew of other new and enhanced products designed to help companies extend more powerful networking services to branch offices.

Cisco Tuesday announced a doubly powerful Catalyst Ethernet switch, a condensed edge router and a slew of other new and enhanced products designed to help companies extend more powerful networking services to branch offices and beyond.

Watch a slideshow of the HP and Cisco products just announced

Cisco says the offerings fit into its "Borderless Networks" architecture, which is intended to support applications, processing cycles and services that are increasingly distributed and virtualized, such as those in cloud computing and software-as-a-service environments.

"It's hard to find a comparable product portfolio in the industry," says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with the Yankee Group. "There isn't another one out there with the breadth."

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Topping the list is an upgraded Catalyst 4500 E switch that doubles the per slot bandwidth of previous versions. The 10-slot chassis now boasts 848Gbps of system bandwidth or 48Gbps per slot. It also runs Cisco's modular, Linux-based IOS XE operating system, the first Catalyst switch system to do so.

The switch supports 384 Power-over-Ethernet Plus ports, 200 Gigabit Ethernet SFP ports, or 100 10G Ethernet SFP+ ports. It also offers three software services options – LAN Base, IP Base and Enterprise Services; TrustSec, MediaNet and EnergyWise for security, video and energy management; and NetFlow for application visibility.

Kerravala notes that, at 848Gbps, the 4500E is now "beefier" than the higher-end Catalyst 6500 (Cisco has previously said its earlier 4500 E matched up well vs. high-end offerings from rivals such as HP). He and other observers expect Cisco to soon upgrade the 720Gbps 6500 to perhaps 1.44Tbps, or almost 3Tbps in a Virtual Switching System (VSS) configuration.

The 4500 E switch starts at $27,480.

Also new is a compact version of the recently unveiled ASR 1000 edge router for enterprises – the ASR 1001. This 1RU router allows users to upgrade performance on demand from 2.5Gbps to 5Gbps via software activation.

It supports software redundancy by housing active and standby images of IOS on the same hardware. It has feature parity with existing versions of the ASR 1000 line, including encryption at a maximum throughput of 1.8Gbps.

The ASR 1001 sports four built-in Gigabit Ethernet ports and a single slot that houses the same port adapters as existing ASR 1000s. It also includes a daughter card that, at first customer ship will sport two OC-3 and four T-3 WAN interfaces. Subsequent releases will have daughter cards that support 8xT-1/E-1 (channelized), 4xGigabit Ethernet, and a hard disk drive -- with possibly a minimum of 160 Gigabytes -- for Wide Area Activation Services (WAAS).

With regard to WAAS, Cisco unveiled WAAS Express, an IOS-based version of the WAN optimizer available on-demand for application acceleration based on Layer 4 information. Cisco also rolled out a version of WAAS for the Services Routing Engine (SRE) module on its Integrated Services Routers (ISR) that provides Layer 4-7 optimization on demand.

Also new to the ISR is UCS Express, a branch office versions of the Unified Computing System data center blade server that's designed for application survivability. UCS Express runs Microsoft Windows and VMware, and is designed to provide operational consistency between UCS servers and applications at the data center and remote sites. But it is not a full UCS implementation, Cisco says – it will differ in memory and disk capacity, and will not support virtual machine mobility.

The ASR 1001 will be available in December. It costs $30,000. WAAS Express is available now, starting at $1,000. WAAS SRE is also available now and starts at $2,500. UCS Express will be available in November and starts at about $2,800.

For wireless LANs, Cisco unveiled the Aironet 1040 access point. It is an entry-level 802.11n access point for small/medium businesses and "economy buyers," Cisco says. It costs $495 for a single-band version and $795 dual-band.

Cisco will tie things together with integration services. Smart Business Architecture Enterprise provides "prescriptive" design guides for up to 10,000 endpoints and Smart Net Total Care is a management support service for an enterprise's installed base.

Smart Net Total Care will be available in the fourth quarter of Cisco's 2011 fiscal year – May, June and July of 2011. Pricing is variable depending on the scope of service. SBA Enterprise is available now. Pricing was not disclosed.

Cisco also bundled in new management applications with its services portfolio called CiscoWorks LAN Management Solution (LMS) . LMS 4.0 supports management of over 560 Cisco devices, including the new ISR G2 routers, and Catalyst 2960-S, 3560-X, 3750-X and 4500E switches. It provides monitoring, troubleshooting, configuration and lifecycle management, and can be deployed in "work centers" defined by EnergyWise, TrustSec and other operationally-specific groups.

LMS 4.0 is available now for $2,500 for up to 50 devices, and up to $90,000 for 10,000 devices.

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