Cisco 6500 to deliver full 10G Ethernet

Cisco this week will make a 10G Ethernet product splash aimed at quashing any rumbling that the company is behind the high-performance switching curve.

SAN JOSE - Cisco  this week will make a 10G Ethernet product splash aimed at quashing any rumbling that the company is behind the high-performance switching curve.

On tap is a new switch-fabric module for Catalyst 6500  series switches that will provide a full 10G path between attached 10G line cards. This will overcome a common throughput limitation associated with backbone switches that predate 10G Ethernet technology.

Also being released are high-density modules that support large numbers of Gigabit servers and desktops. The modules also can provide inline power to devices such as IP phones and Wi-Fi access points.

Foremost among the new offerings is the Supervisory 720 module, the switching brains for all ports in a Catalyst 6500 series chassis. The module gives the switch a total switching capacity of 720G bit/sec and 400 million packet/sec of forwarding power - a 250% increase in capacity and twice as much forwarding speed as the previous Supervisor 2 module, according to Cisco.

"The development of high-density Gigabit and 10 Gigabit is one we've been following carefully for some time," says Dave Wiltzius, network division leader at Lawrence Livermore National Labs, a U.S. Department of Energy research facility at the University of California, Berkeley. The lab uses Catalyst 6500s on its network and with backbone nodes connected with 10G Ethernet links, as well as with hundreds of servers running copper Gigabit.

The Supervisor 720 can provide up to 40G bit/sec of bandwidth among modules in a chassis. This is a fivefold bandwidth increase over previous technology, under which Cisco's single-port 10G Ethernet module maxed out at about 8G bit/sec, the company says. The module includes an integrated switch fabric that is used to move packets through the switch and allows for the extra bandwidth. The fabric is used in place of the 32G bit/sec bus on the Catalyst 6500 chassis.

Cisco also is releasing a high-density 10/100/1000Base-T blade with 48 autonegotiating Ethernet ports that can link with devices of varying speeds. The blades could provide desktop connectivity for 10/100 or Gigabit Ethernet client PCs, while supplying 48 volts of DC power to devices such as voice-over-IP (VoIP) phones and wireless LAN gear.

For inline power, a daughter card can be added to the blades to provide power based on Cisco's inline power technology, which can let the modules power Cisco VoIP and Wi-Fi devices. An inline power card based on the pending IEEE 802.3af standard  will be released this summer.

While Lawrence Livermore's Wiltzius says he likes the idea of multiple 10G Ethernet ports with the new Supervisor 720, he is more interested in high concentrations of Gigabit ports. With more than 600 Gigabit-enabled machines, packing more of those connections into a chassis could make for simpler management, Wittzius says.

Taking advantage of this added bandwidth, Cisco will release dual-port and four-port 10G Ethernet modules for the Catalyst 6500. Both products support the Xenpak standard for modular 10G Ethernet optics, and can be fitted with two kinds of ports that can reach up to six and 25 miles, respectively, over single-mode fiber-optic cable. Up to 32 10G Ethernet ports can be loaded into a Catalyst 6500 chassis now with the Supervisor 720, as opposed to eight 10G Ethernet ports with previous Supervisor modules.

Many competitive products in the LAN core-switch market top out at about 6G to 8G bit/sec of bandwidth, according to recent testing by Network World's Global Test Alliance (see www.nwfusion.com/alliance). Of the products tested last fall, only Force10 Networks' E1200 provided true 10G Ethernet performance with 40G bit/sec of bandwidth between a network module and backplane. Alcatel says its OmniSwitch 8800 can support 13.2G bit/sec. Foundry Networks has said it is working on a next-generation switch platform for supporting full 10 Gigabit links.

"The new Supervisor module seems to bring Cisco up to speed in the high-end switch market," says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with The Yankee Group.

Multifaceted Catalyst line

"Cisco's Catalyst 6500 has always been the Swiss Army knife of network gear," Kerravala says, referring to various modules available for the 6500 line, such as VPN, content switching and intrusion-detection blades. "There were faster products out there for every type of service Cisco offered. Now they seem to be going after the high-performance market, which always has been the area of a Foundry" or Force10, he adds..

Other products being introduced include a 16-port Gigabit Ethernet line card with mini-Gigabit Interface Converter (GBIC) ports aimed at data centers. Cisco also is releasing a new version of its Distributed For warding Card - a daughter card for the Catalyst Supervisor module that can add features such as IP Version 6 support, Multi-protocol Label Switching and network address translation features.

The Supervisor 720 module is available for $28,000. In the second quarter the two-port 10G Ethernet line card with dense wavelength division multiplexing compatibility will be released, starting at $60,000. The four-port 10G Ethernet card also will be available in the second quarter starting at $20,000. The medium-haul (six-mile) and long-haul (25-mile) optics also will be available this quarter for $12,000 and $4,000, respectively.

Other new products available:

  • 16-port mini-GBIC line card - $15,000.
  • 48 10/100/1000 line card - $7,500.
  • 48-port line card with PoE support - $1,500.
  • Distributed Forwarding Card 3 - $7,500.
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