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Cisco powers up Catalyst line

Feb 23, 20044 mins
Cisco SystemsNetwork SecurityNetwork Switches

Cisco last week announced new products that could help users roll out larger amounts of powered Ethernet ports, reducing the cost of deploying devices such as IP phones and Wi-Fi access points.

Cisco last week announced new products that could help users roll out larger amounts of powered Ethernet ports, reducing the cost of deploying devices such as IP phones and Wi-Fi access points.

The company announced module upgrades for its Catalyst 6500 (see review) series and 4500 series that add 802.3af-compliant Power over Ethernet (PoE) support. Cisco also announced stackable and fixed-configured boxes that support the IEEE standard for PoE. The shift from its proprietary PoE technology to 802.3af could give users more flexibility in rolling out large numbers, and a wider variety, of inline-powered devices.

Users and analysts say 802.3af technology can reduce costs and simplify Wi-Fi deployments because AC outlets aren’t always installed in places optimal for positioning access points.

IEEE-standard PoE gear from Cisco was deployed recently at Exempla Healthcare of Denver, a managed care organization that supports two hospitals. Catalyst 6509s, which are outfitted with the 802.3af blades, support its more than 300 Wi-Fi access points and Cisco IP phones.

Exempla rolled out wireless to support mobile nursing stations that let nurses access patient charts and a database over a wireless LAN. Powering the 275 access points spread across three hospitals helped the firm reduce its project costs by 12% at one hospital, and 22% at another.

“Not having to pull a 110-volt electrical outlet to each [access point] was a tremendous cost savings,” says Lots Pook, CTO at Exempla. The firm also uses PoE switches to power 120 Cisco IP phones in a pilot IP telephony project.

To upgrade its Catalysts for PoE, Exempla used new PoE daughtercards, which add 802.3af support to the chassis, and a new 48-port 10/100M bit/sec 802.3af blade. An 803.3af daughtercard also is available for the Catalyst 4500 chassis.

Cisco had shipped PoE blades for these switches since 2000, but they could power only Cisco and Cisco-compliant endpoints. The IEEE ratified the 803.3af standard last July. With the new 802.3af gear, Cisco catches the vendor up with its competitors: 3Com, Alcatel, Avaya, Extreme Networks, Foundry Networks, HP and Nortel have had standards-based PoE switches since 2003.

Cisco PoE blades and fixed-configuration switches include:

• 48-port 10/100/1000M-bit/sec modules for the Catalyst 6500 and 4500.

• 48-port 10/100 modules for the Catalyst 6500 and 4500.

• A 96-port 10/100 module for the Catalyst 6500 .

• 24- and 48-port versions of the stackable Catalyst 3750.

• 24- and 48-port versions of the non-stackable Catalyst 3560.

The 96-port blade is actually a 48-port Ethernet module that can be split into 96 end-node connections from any standard LAN wiring closet patch panel, Cisco says. Ports on this module transmit Ethernet signals on all four-wire, wire-pair contacts. These pairs can be split into two separate endstation connections between a wiring closet and an Ethernet wall jack, letting the switch supply powered Ethernet connections to twice as many end nodes. Powered and non-powered Ethernet nodes can plug into blade ports, Cisco says.

Cisco also has weaved some of its own PoE detection features into the new chassis products. Catalyst chassis switches using the new PoE equipment – via Cisco Discovery Protocol – will be able to detect power requirements of Cisco Wi-Fi, IP phone and other devices, and allocate only the required amount of power. Cisco says its IP phones and Wi-Fi gear draws only 6.2 and 10.3 watts, respectively, while 803.3af-powered devices deliver 15 watts. By detecting these devices, the unused wattage is redistributed. This could help users support more lower-powered devices, such as IP phones, from one switch, the company says.

The IEEE power specification delivers more current vs. the Cisco standard (7.3 watts), which lets it power more kinds of devices, the company says. While previous Catalyst chassis can be upgraded with the 803.3af daughtercard and PoE blades, existing fix-configured catalysts cannot be upgraded.

The 48-port 10/100/1000 PoE card for the Catalyst 6500 is available now for $14,000, while the 96-port card (48 ports, splittable at the patch panel) also costs $14,000. The 48-port 10/100 blade costs $8,000. A Catalyst 6500 PoE daughtercard for 48 ports costs $2,000, and a 96-port version costs $3,500.

Catalyst 4500 10/100 PoE blades start at $6,500 and 10/100/1000 blades cost $7,500. The Catalyst 3750 with PoE starts at $4,800, and the 3560 starts at $3,800.