Cisco Enterprise Ethernet Switch Buyer's Guide

Networking leader Cisco says two key trends to watch are increasing demand for video and the consumerization of IT, and its Ethernet switch product line reflects that belief.

By Drew Robb | Posted Mar 16, 2011
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Cisco has such a large customer base to talk to that it would be foolish not to pay attention when it chooses to talk about its original field of innovation: networking. Joel Conover, Senior Manager for Borderless Networks at Cisco, sees two key trends emerging: the rise of video and the consumerization of IT.

"Video is fast becoming the dominant traffic type on the network because people understand the power of video in communicating with customers, partners, and employees using technologies like telepresence (high definition, multi-screen video conferencing with directional audio), Webex conferencing and video-on-demand," he said. "Advances in network architecture are allowing these rich media interactions."

On the consumerization of IT side, he believes that employees and CXO's are demanding the ability to use the devices of their choice -- smartphones and tablet computers -- rather than company-issued devices. These knowledge workers need to be able to connect to the network in whatever way they choose while doing so securely, reliably, and seamlessly.

Thus Cisco is responding to these trends in its enterprise switch portfolio. The company splits the enterprise switch market into three main categories, not counting offerings for small businesses, the data center and service providers.

Campus LAN Core

For the LAN core, Conover recommends the Catalyst 6500 family of modular LAN switches. These offer enough performance and flexibility for the campus core and distribution networks while supporting integrated network services and resiliency features. In the 12 years since the introduction of the Catalyst 6500 platforms, Cisco has shipped over 700,000 chassis, and continues to upgrade this product line.

Conover noted that key markets for this switch are large enterprises, particularly those in the financial, education, and healthcare fields. He calls attention to the Catalyst 6500 E-Series switch with its starting price of $55,000. He characterized it as the industry's most widely deployed core modular platform, with ample density for gigabit and ten gigabit aggregation in the campus core. It is fully loaded with hardware-accelerated Borderless Network Services like Cisco Medianet, Cisco EnergyWise, and Cisco TrustSec, and powered by Cisco IOS Software.

"The Catalyst 6500 delivers best-in-class resiliency with VSS featuring sub-200-millisecond supervisor failover utilizing the Enhanced Fast Switchover Upgrade (EFSU) functionality and enriched application visibility with Cisco IOSNetFlow," said Conover. "The Catalyst 6500 can provide investment protection with backward and forward compatibility."

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