Cisco: Smaller Size, Flexibility Highlight Latest Catalyst Switches

Cisco on Monday unveiled five new switches with an eye toward smaller form factor and better flexibility for high-stress environments like retail, hospitality and manufacturing.

The new releases, which comprise five new devices in two lines, Catalyst 2960-C and Catalyst 3560-C, are the latest product additions under Cisco's Borderless Networks banner. That strategy, first announced in late 2009, is Cisco's description for anyone, anywhere, anytime network connectivity -- a market shift which the networking titan has previously said represents a potential $10 billion in migration, upsell, services, integration and vertical market opportunities for VARs.

Market targets for the new C-series switches include retail, education, hospitality, and manufacturing: spots with customers that are looking for easier and more flexible ways to deploy switches. According to Cisco, it's part of a push to look beyond the "speeds and feeds" elements of switching -- i.e. faster throughput, more ports -- and design switches that can be more easily custom-fit to market environments.

"Traditional networking isn't going to be good enough, going forward, to support the growth of these companies," said Laura Finkelstein, senior director, Borderless Networks switching marketing at Cisco. "How can these businesses deploy the services they need without the hassle, and do it securely, reliably and seamlessly?"

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The switches are "half the size of an Xbox console," Finkelstein described, and some models can be powered via Power over Ethernet (PoE) Pass Through from a wiring closet, meaning fewer electrical outlets needed overall. Like all Borderless Networks products, the switches include Cisco EnergyWise software for monitoring and managing power usage by devices.

"The most important thing is to be able to easily install, configure and maintain these," Finkelstein said. "We'll be bringing that same, great ease of use across our other Catalyst switches."

Cisco credits its printed circuit board (PCB) and thermal design techniques, as well as its use of custom application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC) for getting the switches smaller. The new Catalyst switches range from $745 to $1,995 depending on specifications, and will start shipping in March, according to Finkelstein.

Finkelstein said the pace of Borderless Networks announcements will quicken in 2011.

"We rolled out the overall Borderless Networks only about a year ago, so now's the time to build roadmaps and where thigns are built from scratch," she said. "All the product planning we're doing now is between the business units, as well. We're working in hand in hand for all of our upcoming launches."