Cisco unveils switches, software for small firms

The package is designed to ease setup of IP networks

Cisco Systems Inc. today will announce a package of hardware and software designed to make it simpler and less expensive for small and midsize businesses to set up IP-based networks, including voice-over-IP (VoIP) systems.

The new offering, dubbed the Cisco Business Communications Solution (BCS), includes two Catalyst series switches, one for small businesses with up to 250 workers, and the other for companies with 250 to 1,500 workers.

In addition, Cisco is adding three new IP phones and a dozen software tools supporting tasks such as network monitoring and voice provisioning, plus revised versions of four existing products.

Azmir Mohamed, Cisco's BCS product line manager, said one example of the simplicity built into the new offering is a VoIP configuration tool that lets IT managers use a bar code reader to insert 12-digit Ethernet addresses for up to 1,200 IP phone lines in about 30 minutes. That's down from as much as four hours using the conventional method of typing in the information, Mohamed said.

Jeff Legge, CIO at City Holding Co. in Charleston, W.Va., has installed some of the BCS components in about 20 of his company's City National Bank branches. City National isn't using the VoIP capabilities yet, but Legge said it is exploiting Cisco's remote systems management features. "We have locations that are six-plus hours away from our central operations center, so ... making changes remotely saves us time and money," he said.

Ultimately, City National hopes to connect up to 80 of its branches via BCS products. That should greatly aid the single IT staffer who handles telecommunications support for the branches, said Brian Sims, a vice president at Advanced Technical Solutions Inc. (ATS), a systems integrator in Scott Depot, W.Va., that's working with the bank on the BCS project.

ATS is also helping Peoples Federal Credit Union in Nitro, W.Va., to deploy BCS technologies for use within a mobile bank in a truck that includes an automated teller machine, two teller windows and a satellite-based video surveillance system. Sims said the credit union has deployed Cisco's new Catalyst Express 500 switch, which has an interface that's designed to let companies set up and operate switch ports without a trained network engineer.

Robert Whiteley, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., said the BCS packages are well timed, partly because VoIP technology has matured at large companies, and small and midsize businesses are now willing to spend money on it.

Among Cisco's competitors, 3Com Corp. comes the closest to matching the BCS offering with its range of data networking and VoIP products for small and midsize companies, Whiteley said.


Cisco is adding the following lines of switches:

The Catalyst Express 500 Series, with four models aimed at small businesses. Prices range from $795 to $1,995.

The Catalyst 2960 Series (below), with five models designed for midsize companies. Compatible with the Catalyst 2950 GT and 2970 lines. Priced from $1,295 to $4,495.

The Catalyst 2960 Series

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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