Alcatel: Fast Ethernet Now, Gigabit Switches Later

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The new OmniSwitch 6800L family of stackable Layer 3 switches, available in 24-port and 48-port versions, gives customers the flexibility to upgrade their infrastructure to gain advanced security and quality-of-service features but postpone the purchase of Gigabit capabilities, said Brian Witt, director of product marketing at Alcatel, Calabasas, Calif.

"Network managers have a dilemma. They want to move to advanced services now, and they're not sure if they can justify a speed upgrade at the same time," Witt said.

With the new 6800L switches, customers can buy 10/100 switches now and maintain their investment protection later when they migrate over to 10/100/1000, he said.

The 6800L line includes security features such as dynamic virtual LAN support that can automatically authenticate users and devices, and quarantine those users and devices that don't meet the company's security policies.

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For customers, Gigabit Ethernet is a "must have"--it's just a matter of when, said Anne Plese, manager of global marketing and new products distribution at Telmar Network Technology, an Alcatel solution provider and value-added distribution partner based in Irvine, Calif.

In the near term, however, the switches' security features could be more appealing to customers, she said.

"The automated quarantine engine is a huge differentiator," Plese said.

The switches include four combination copper or fiber Gigabit Ethernet ports for backplane connections. Up to eight switches can be stacked, according to the company. An optional 10-Gigabit daughter card is also available for the 48-port switch. To enable the remaining ports for Gigabit to the desktop, users can purchase a software license, Witt said.

While the price gap per port between Fast Ethernet and Gigabit has narrowed considerably, it's still a difference that can add up quickly for customers upgrading 30,000 or 40,000 ports, said Zeus Kerravala, enterprise infrastructure vice president at analyst firm Yankee Group.

Available in April, the OmniSwitch 6800-24L carries a list price of $3,295, while the 6800-48L is priced at $4,795. The Gigabit Ethernet upgrade key is priced at $2,395 for the 24-port switch and $3,395 for the 48-port switch.