Is the Cisco 6500 Series invincible?

Cisco's product stands the test of time.

The Cisco 6500 Series has proven itself time and time again to be a mainstay in the networking industry. Cisco has done a commendable job with continued enhancements to ensure that the industry’s golden child maintains relevance. If this is the case, why do IT professionals still fear its supposedly impending obsolescence and feel pressure to upgrade to newer models? Let’s just say rumors of its demise are greatly exaggerated.

As the industry moves toward 10/40Gig and higher, the need for bandwidth and port density only increases. Software-defined networking (SDN), while certainly worthy of consideration, may not be the best option for all organizations just yet. However, the need for high-speed switching connectivity and robust services remains a concern for the here and now. Enter: The Cisco 6500 Series.

Since its birth in 1999, the Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series has grown considerably in available options and bandwidth potential. The introduction of its cousin in 2013, the Cisco Catalyst 6800, is further proof of its staying power. This product line was designed to ease users into an upgrade with some degree of adaptability with existing infrastructure, including compatibility with 6500 series blades, greater throughput potential, and options for Instant Access satellite switches and other newer technology.

Industry analyst Nick Lippis maintains in a Lippis Report that the addition of the Cisco 6800 added another 10 years to the Catalyst 6500 Series and asserts that it will still be around in 2025. With nine years to go before we can verify the accuracy of that prediction, why should IT professionals be comfortable investing in their 6500 platforms without fear of Cisco leaving them high and dry?

In a 2013 Network World article, Rob Soderbery, senior vice president and then general manager of Cisco’s Enterprise Networking Group, stated: “Customers buy into the ‘evergreen’ value proposition of the Cat6K. We are absolutely committed to the Cat6K as our evergreen solution for campus core networks.” Sure, actions may speak louder than words, but Cisco has followed through on that statement to date.

They would be silly not to. As Lippis noted in his 2012 article, “…Catalyst 6500 has generated more than $45B in cumulative revenue for Cisco, thanks to its large footprint of close to 800,000 systems, 110 million ports shipped thus far to some 45,000 customers.” He further commented that the 6500 Series has an installed base that is 20 times larger than its nearest competitor.

Smart business strategy tells you to invest where the money is, which is exactly what Cisco has done. In addition, with increased competitive pressures over the past few years from rivals like Arista and others, Cisco isn’t going to chance losing its loyal fan base by messing with its popular platform.

Despite all this, there is still chatter in the IT space of the need to move away from the Cisco 6500 Series to ensure longevity within the technology infrastructure. Why? While the Cisco 6500 Series may be considered past its prime by some, there’s no denying it remains a powerhouse. With the continual investments that Cisco itself has made in this platform, not to mention other options that can further extend this lifecycle, IT professionals have little need to fear.

As a manufacturer, of course Cisco is going to push and encourage upgrades to their latest and greatest options. The important thing for users to understand is that new doesn’t always mean better, and it doesn’t always equate to what’s best for their networks or organizational business needs. Whether you’re a faithful user of the 6500 Series, have migrated to stackable switches, or upgraded to the Nexus line, be confident in the choices you’re making for your organization and know there are plenty of resources to help you along the way.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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