Cisco Systems and Enterasys Networks are among the first vendors to introduce switches that provide improved security at the edge of the network.
The switches,members of Cisco's Catalyst and Enterasys' Matrix E1 families,support 802.1x, a user-authentication protocol that stops unauthorized traffic before it can get onto a network, the vendors say. They also provide IP routing at the network's edge and are designed to handle increasingly high bandwidth applications, such as ERP and VoIP.
According to VARBusiness' State of the Market research, security is one of the top three technologies deployed in customers' solutions.
"Higher levels of security that can be mapped to an individual can be appealing to a customer," says B.J. Carter, president of ValCom, a solution provider in South Portland, Maine.
Enhanced security will help sell Cisco's and Enterasys' switches, even in a down market when customers are generally not expanding their networks, solution providers say. In addition to authenticating users when they log on, the products include Layer 3 technology, which lets IT administrators restrict users from designated parts of a network.
More specifically, 24- and 48-port switches have been added to Cisco's Catalyst 3550 and 2950 series, which deploy Layer 3 and Layer 4 services from the desktop to the network's core and through a WAN. The switches provide quality of service, the ability to prioritize applications and traffic, and multicast management technology, which stores and sends frequently requested data to multiple users. The 3550 series also includes a 12-port Gigabit switch to link networks in a data center.
The Cisco Catalyst Enhanced Multilayer Software Image, a software upgrade to the Catalyst 3550 switches, includes dynamic IP routing. When a Catalyst 2950 switch is combined with a Catalyst 3550 switch, the solution enables IP routing from the edge to the core of the network.
All the Cisco switches are currently available. Prices for Catalyst 3550 switches range from $5,490 to $7,790, depending on the number of Fast Ethernet ports. The Catalyst 2950 series includes four fixed configuration stackable switches with Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet connectivity, ranging in price from $2,495 to $4,995.
As for Enterasys, its family of Matrix E1 switches include the Matrix E1 Workgroup Switch (WS) and the Matrix E1 Gigabit Workgroup Switch (GWS). Both provide full Layer 2, 3 and 4 features. They include IP and IPX routing at no additional cost, as well as quality-of-service capabilities that give preference to some applications over others. The $7,995 WS, available now, has 48 10/100 ports and three modular uplink slots to support 10/100 and Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. The $9,995 GWS, to be available during this quarter, provides six Gigabit Ethernet ports and three flexible uplink slots to support a variety of 10/100/1000 Ethernet uplinks.
A third switch, the Matrix E1 Optical Access Switch (OAS), has 12-Gb ports and three modular expansion slots for Gigabit or 10 Gigabit. Available immediately, it lists for $14,995 with a 10-Gb module listing for $9,995.