Cisco Goes Compact With Catalyst Switches

Cisco's main Ethernet switching product lineup is getting smaller -- a lot smaller -- with new C-series compact switches that include new power capabilities.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Jan 10, 2011
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The Catalyst switching family is one of the biggest products lines at Cisco. It's a product line that is now expanding with its smallest entrants yet.

Cisco today announced the new Catalyst 3560-C and Catalyst 2960-C Compact Series of switches. The new compact switches are part of a Cisco effort to expand the availability of networking for retail, medical, industrial and other vertical markets.

Laura Finkelstein, senior director, Switch Marketing, Cisco Borderless Networks Group told InternetNews.com that the new Catalyst C-series switches are approximately half the size of a Microsoft Xbox gaming console. The new compact switches, however, retain the same features as their larger Catalyst brethren.

Finkelstein noted that Cisco has had compact workgroup switches available in the past, including some under the Linksys brand name, though those switches were unmanaged. With the Catalyst C-series, Cisco's TrustSec security framework is fully enabled to provide hop-to-hop security for networks. TrustSec debuted in the Catalyst switch family in March of 2010. The technology expands on the ideas of Network Access Control (NAC) with additional network intelligence and compliance capabilities.

The c-class switches are intended to be deployed at a distance from the main network wiring closet, where power outlets may be limited. As such, Cisco has embedded some advance Power over Ethernet Plus (PoE +) capabilities to enable power to pass through the c-class switches.

"Two of the c-class switches are very special in that they actually don't have their own power supply, they are powered directly from the back-end switch in the wiring closet," Finkelstein said. "One of the switches can also pass through power to the devices that it is attached too."

From a usability perspective, the compact switches benefit from automatic quality of service (AutoQoS) and Auto SmartPorts for automatically configuring the switch.

"Auto SmartPorts is the ability to just plug in the device and have pre-configured templates that recognizes devices like IP phones and configures the port appropriately for the devices," Finkelstein said. "AutoQoS is about making sure that the right priority is given to the device for quality of service. It's an easy way to setup your network."

From an engineering perspective, Cisco did a number of things in order to make a compact version of the Catalyst. Among the innovations are custom ASICs as well as new thermal design in order to make the compact switches.

"As you can imagine, over time we'll look at supplying more and more to the power pass through so more devices can be covered," Finkelstein said. "We'll also be looking at other types of problems that we want to solve in the industry that traditional switches don't solve."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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