Cisco, Riverstone Unveil 10 Gigabit Switches

Cisco Systems and Riverstone Networks both rolled out aggressively priced 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches targeted at enterprise customers.

Riverstone last week unveiled its new XGS switch family, which delivers true 10 Gigabit performance at less than $10,000 per port. That line marks the metro-area-network switch vendor's entry to the enterprise market.

Riverstone will rely on solution provider partners to take its new XGS line to market.

Cisco unveiled the Supervisor Engine 720, two-port and four-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet modules, and two 48-port 10/100/1000 Ethernet modules for its Catalyst 6500 line. The new modules provide a migration path for the installed base of Catalyst 6500 customers to make the switch to 10 Gigabit, said Doug Gourlay, senior manager of product marketing for the 6500 line at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.

The Cisco 10 Gigabit modules are priced from $5,000 to $30,000 per port.

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"The pricing from both Riverstone and Cisco is very aggressive," said Michael Kennedy, principal and co-founder of Network Strategy Partners, a networking and management consulting firm in Boston. "That's probably the only way they're going to sell 10 Gigabit Ethernet right now. Otherwise, I don't think the demand is there. I don't honestly believe they're going to sell a lot of these."

Kennedy said most enterprise customers are sufficiently served with current technology. "Looking at price per port, 10/100 and Gigabit Ethernet are very inexpensive," he said. "In some campus environments, there may be a need for 10 Gigabit, but not too often. At some point, you just have more capacity than is warranted."

Still, Kennedy said the market will arrive. "In the future, the market will be there, and these two companies are setting themselves up to take advantage of it with pre-emptive pricing."

Stephen Garrison, senior director of corporate marketing at Riverstone, Santa Clara, Calif., said that he believes the biggest barrier to the adoption of 10 Gigabit Ethernet in the enterprise has been the price per port. "We're now offering a 10-Gigabit port at the same cost as 10 1-Gigabit ports," he said.

Riverstone is targeting the federal and military markets, state and local governments, and education clients, Garrison said.

The vendor's latest line also signals a new direction for Riverstone, which once focused exclusively on the service provider market with a direct-sales team. Now the company will rely on solution provider partners to take its XGS line to market, he said.

The XGS line comprises the 9016, a half-rack switch with 16 10-Gigabit ports, 320-Gbit capacity and 400-million-packets-per-second (Mpps) throughput; and the 9008, a quarter-rack switch with eight 10-Gigabit ports, 160-Gbit capacity and 200-Mpps throughput. Both switches are available now and offer line-rate switching and routing with multiprotocol label switching and wire-speed quality of service, Garrison said.

Cisco's new supervisor engine with an integrated 720-Gbps switch fabric delivers 400-Mpps throughput, Gourlay said. By integrating the switch fabric into the supervisory module, the new 720 also frees up another slot in Catalyst 6500 chassis, he said.