Cisco, Juniper lead switching splash

Force10, ConSentry Networks and Enterasys also offer new data center, edge devices to better support bandwidth-heavy applications

LAN switching vendors are set to roll out a flurry of new products and enhancements, highlighted by Cisco's new data center switch and Juniper's expected rollout of edge, core and data center boxes.

Looking to bolster technologies that support bandwidth-heavy applications, such as virtualization, collaboration, unified communications and video, LAN switching vendors are set to roll out a flurry of new products and enhancements, highlighted by Cisco’s new data center switch and Juniper’s expected rollout of edge, core and data center boxes. (Read the latest on Juniper's rollout.)


Slideshows: Cisco, Juniper lead switching splash


A supporting cast of switching vendors will unveil important upgrades, extensions and directions for their products, including Force10 and ConSentry Networks. Enterasys Networks is saving its latest product releases for next week with some 10 Gigabit Ethernet additions to its core and edge lines

The product rollouts are dominated by advances such as high-density 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Power over Ethernet (PoE) and service orientation. Indeed, PoE was a prime factor in the record growth Ethernet switching experienced in the third quarter of 2007, according to Dell'Oro Group.PoE, however, is not part of the Cisco launch, which is focused squarely on the data center. The company’s new Nexus 7000 switch, developed under the code name DC3, features a unified switching fabric that combines Ethernet, IP, and storage capabilities.

Nexus 7000 is the first in a new line of Cisco switching products optimized for high-density 10 Gigabit Ethernet in the data center, and is perhaps Cisco's most significant product launch since the Carrier Routing System in 2004. Nexus required four years and 578 engineers to build, at a cost of $250 million, company officials say. It incorporates 1,513 Cisco patents, either issued or pending.  (Read more about Nexus here.)

“Cisco hasn't released a new switch in quite a while,” says Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group. “Instead of just building a bigger version of what's out there, they actually thought about what would [the virtualized] data center look like and what are the features of the switch that would have to be included to meet those needs.”

The Nexus 7000 is not the eventual successor to Cisco's Catalyst 6500 enterprise campus switch, company officials stress. The Catalyst 6500 has a road map that takes it to 2012, they say.

The Nexus 7000 includes 10-slot and 18-slot chassis that deliver up to 15 terabits per second of switching capacity and support up to 512 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. The system is designed for future delivery of 40Gbps and 100Gbps Ethernet as well, company officials say.

The unified fabric architecture of the Nexus 7000 is designed to provide all servers with access to all network and storage resources. Cisco says this architecture enables data center consolidation and virtualization, and eliminates the need for parallel storage and computational networks.

Product shot of Cisco Nexus

A unified Fibre Channel over Ethernet I/O interface is a planned future deliverable, Cisco says.

Nexus includes a new modular, Linux-based operating system called NX-OS. NX-OS melds the company’s SAN OS from its SAN switching lines with its IOS routing code.

This modular design provides fault containment and automatic recovery so that processes can be remotely started, stopped and upgraded without human intervention, Cisco says.

The Nexus 7000 Series starts at $75,000 and is planned to be generally available in the second quarter.

Cisco's router rival Juniper, meanwhile, is expected to unveil its entrée into LAN switching as part of a broader enterprise strategy briefing at a splashy event Tuesday in New York. There, the company is expected to unveil various configurations of edge, core and data center switches based on a custom ASIC called Hurricane

Juniper is also expected to announce a significant enterprise integration partnership with IBM Global Services in an effort to kick-start Juniper’s broadened enterprise ambitions. IBM is currently a chip supplier to Juniper, and as Cisco's data center intentions have grown to overlap with those of IBM's, the Juniper partnership is viewed as a competitive response to Cisco's data center initiatives. 

Juniper would not confirm the IBM Global Services partnership.

“Next week's [Jan. 28] event will be focused on Juniper's enterprise strategy, and we will have both partners and customers participating in the event,” a Juniper spokeswoman said. “Otherwise, we don't comment on industry speculation.”

Force10 is also focusing on the enterprise by scaling down for the data center. The company's new C150 switch is a four-slot device that supports 192 line-rate gigabit and 32 line-rate 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports.

The C150 also provides 15.4W PoE support to all 192 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and includes a power management system that enables per-port prioritization in the event of a failure. The C150 supports 96Gbps per slot, Force10 says.

Force10 also unveiled an eight-port, line-rate 10 Gigabit Ethernet line card. The card allows Force10's C300 switch to now support 64 line-rate 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports, while the C150 supports 32. The line card enables IT and data center managers to mix fiber and copper interfaces on a single card based on their requirements.

The C150 is available for $16,500. The eight-port line card for the C300 and the C150 is also available today for $16,000.

Force10 also is announcing that its FTOS operating system is now available across its line of switch/routers. This is intended to bring consistency, simplified management and faster rollout of services across the company's TeraScale E-Series, C-Series and S-Series switches.

This will be a welcome development to Force10 user Pando Networks.

“[Their S-Series] OS is pretty brutal,” says Keith O’Neil, Pando network engineer. “Make the worst CLI you could ever come up with and throw it into FTOS. It was lacking a lot of features and functionality. Simple commands you’d expect to have, you just weren't getting it. It was like the engineers made this great box but just forgot about the CLI to it.”

FTOS support is now available across Force10's line of switches and switch/routers.

At the edge, ConSentry is moving beyond its NAC appliance roots by unveiling secure switches based on a new architecture. ConSentry’s new Intelligent Switching architecture allows its edge switches to implement user and application control to align network and service access to business operations and policies.

ConSentry says Intelligent Switching integrates user, role and application knowledge with a programmable, wire-speed switching platform to allow:

* Application-based quality of service at Layer 7.

* Control of Web-based applications and instant messaging.

* LAN visibility by user, role, server and file.

* Device and role discovery, drawing from existing directories and identity stores.

* Security and policy features to protect against MAC spoofing and avoid static IP address mapping of Web destinations.

Product shot of ConSentry release

This is an alternative to legacy access switch architectures that operate on IP addresses and Layer 3/Layer 4 ports, and implement virtual LANs and access control lists with no inherent understanding of users, user roles, devices, applications or the interplay of these factors, ConSentry says.

Cisco is moving in this direction through its TrustSec architecture; Enterasys had this vision years ago; and the switching industry at large is expected to embrace it as well.

“I still need that blazing speed, but I want to put more intelligence there as a minimum for security reasons,” says Jim Metzler of Ashton, Metzler and Associates. “Security bubbles right to the top . . . with a number of vendors who are talking about putting more intelligence in the network.”

LANShield Switches with Intelligent Switching are available now at a base price of $6,995. The latest version of the LANShield OS is available as a free upgrade to ConSentry switch customers with a current support contract.

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