Cisco Accelerates Switching Portfolio

Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) is giving more power to its Catalyst and Nexus switch customers with new modules that support the 40 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) and 100GbE standards. The 40 and 100 GbE standards were approved in June of 2010 and ever since, networking vendors have been incrementally adding those capabilities to their platforms.

The Catalyst 6500 switching platform is among the most widely deployed Cisco switches in the market today. It’s been updated with new modules and capabilities over the years including the Virtual Switching System, which lets users view multiple physical switches as one logical one. Now, the 6500 is getting a 40GbE boost with the new 6904 line card.

“With this line card we’re able to load up a Catalyst 6500 with up to 44 ports of 40GbE,” Craig Huitema, director of Marketing at Cisco’s Datacenter Group, told “We’re also able to breakout those 40GbE ports into four 10GbE port for 176 ports of 10GbE.”

The Catalyst 6500 will now also benefit from Cisco’s Easy Virtual Network (EVN) technology. EVN is focused on network virtualization, which is the capability of providing multiple logical networks over a single physical infrastructure. According to Huiteama, with EVN, configuration and management of virtual networks is easier than it is with MPLS, which is often used to help separate virtual networks. “MPLS has been running around the network for quite some time and this is the first time there has been a significant step to simplifying the capabilities that it MPLS historically provided.”

In contrast with VLAN (Virtual LAN) technology, EVN and MPLS operate at Layer-3, while VLAN is a Layer-2 technology.

“With EVN and MPLS, you’re running independent instantiations of a routing table, ” Huitema explained.

With the new update, the Catalyst 6500 will also support Overlay Transport Virtualization (OTV), previously only available just on the Cisco Nexus 7000 data center switch. OTV enables workload migrations across data centers.

The Catalyst isn’t the only Cisco swithcing platform to get an upgrade. The Nexus 7000 is also getting an Ethernet boost. The Nexus 7000 was first introduced in January of 2008 as Cisco’s next generation data center switching platform. The platform was last updated in October with a Fabric 2 module that could enable up to 768 ports of 10GbE. The new Nexus 7000 M2 cards is available in two configurations. There is a 2-port 100GbE module that can provide as many as 32 ports of 100GbE on a Nexus 7000. There is also a 6-port 40GbE module that can enable as many as 96 ports of 40GbE on a Nexus 7000.

Cisco is also now introducing a new Nexus chassis that is intended for high-speed environments like financial services. The Nexus 3064-X switch provides ultra low latency characteristics while consuming less power.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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