Cisco Emerges From The Closet With Special Switches

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Cisco Systems Inc. is launching its Catalyst switch unit intended for applications outside the wiring closet such as classrooms, distributed offices and even cruise ships.

The 3560 and 2970 Compact Switches are not necessarily intended as small or medium business Ethernet systems, but as platforms where cooling fans are not needed and a metal shell may be required. "This is not a wholesale replacement for a low end of SMB products, but a new way of packaging Ethernet switches where they haven't been" before, said Ish Limkakeng, Cisco's director of desktop switching.

Limkakeng cited Cisco's deal with Lufthansa Systems for shipboard switching as an application example. The switches need to be used with limited cable fanouts, where the use of small switches dispenses with cooling fans.

The 2960 can be ordered with or without a Gigabit Ethernet uplink port, trading one of eight Fast Ethernet ports when the gigabit option is chosen. The 3560 is a compact switch that offers eight Power Over Ethernet (PoE) Fast-Ethernet ports along with a Gigabit Ethernet uplink. Security features such as Network Access Control, 802.lx and 802.1x Supplicant, are embedded in the switch software.

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The Cisco 3750-E, the company's new stackable offering for Power Over Ethernet, is being introduced next week with redundant power supply and fan options. The StackWise Plus features for 3750-E give the switch 64 Gbits/sec of switching bandwidth, and allow the switch to be stacked in one logical whole with Cisco ISR routers, and with switches offering integrated wireless LAN controllers.

Cisco has enhanced PoE provisioning for both the new stackable and the 3560-E standalone switch, allowing the powered Ethernet ports to power IP phones, surveillance cameras, Wi-Fi access points and similar devices. Up to 48 ports of 15.4W PoE can be implemented in a single rack unit, and a stack of nine units offers up to 432 ports of powered Ethernet.

The E-series of PoE switches can upgrade to 10-Gbit Ethernet links through a special TwinGig adapter, where a single 10-Gbit module accepts two Gigabit Ethernet SFP modules as inputs.

Complementing the switches, Cisco is offering two new options for its Internetworking Operating System to make it easier to use and upgrade in the field. For the Catalyst 4500, Cisco now offers a full In-Service Software Upgrade, where comprehensive IOS upgrades can be performed online, while a dual unit remains up and switching packets, preserving all network information while upgrading the switching module being upgraded.

For new 3750-E and 3560-E customers, Cisco is also offering IOS as a fully-embedded element that can be installed during manufacture, and brought up at the time of installation without downloads or disk-based installations. Advanced IP services priced optionally from the base IOS can be implemented during installation or later using key-based activation.

Along with easing OS installation, Limkakeng said the embedded option makes it easier to track IOS for audits, and provides a better IOS image consistency for network troubleshooting.