Cisco Upgrades Catalyst 6500 Switch Line

Cisco Systems Inc. last week unveiled six modules and other technology upgrades for its Catalyst 6500 Series switches, including a new processing engine that the company said will nearly triple the performance of its existing switches.

Cisco already controls about 70% of the worldwide switch market with the Catalyst line, according to Joel Conover, an analyst at Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Va. The new offerings stand to solidify the company's market prominence, he said.

The upgrades should also help spur migrations to devices that support up to Gigabit Ethernet transmission rates in wiring closets and 10 Gigabit Ethernet in core networks, Conover said. Cisco has created a "well laid-out migration path," he said. "These announcements give [users] some of the best performance in the industry."

Conover added that Cisco's pricing could also boost 10 Gigabit Ethernet, which is now confined largely to research and supercomputing centers. For example, Cisco announced a four-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet module that costs $20,000, the same price as a device with four Gigabit Ethernet ports.

However, the Catalyst line "is still very expensive," Conover said. He noted that a 6500 chassis configured to support 10 Gigabit Ethernet can cost as much as $300,000.

Cisco said its new Supervisor Engine 720 module is priced at $28,000 and provides forwarding functions for 40 ports of Gigabit Ethernet or four ports of 10 Gigabit Ethernet. The processing engine can move data at speeds up to 720Gbit/sec., compared with 256Gbit/sec. on the 2-year-old model that it's replacing.

Other additions to the 6500 line include a 16-port Gigabit Ethernet module for data centers and a carrier-class 10 Gigabit Ethernet module with two ports, Cisco said.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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