Cisco Refreshes Top Catalyst Switch Line

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Formally announced at Cisco Live in Las Vegas, the updated Catalyst 6500 completes an ongoing refresh of Cisco's broader switching and routing portfolios that's taken place over the past 18 months.

The most notable piece of the 6500 makeover is the release of Cisco's Supervisor Engine 2T, a 2-terabit card that offers 80 gigabits-per-second, per-slot, as well as 10-gigabit and 10-Gigabit Ethernet line cards and various services ranging from upgraded firewalls and virtual private LAN to IPv6 transition technology, system-comprehensive NetFlow monitoring and more than 200 new features in Cisco's IOS software platform.

Overall, said Cisco, the new Sup 2T triples the existing Catalyst 6500 switch's throughput from 720 Gbps to 2 Tbps and quadruples the number of devices that can connect to a network, including support for 10,000 mobile devices. All of the new line cards and Sup 2T are compatible with existing Cisco E-series chassis models, meaning an easy upgrade path for existing Catalyst 6500 E-series customers, Cisco said.

Cisco plans to battle hard in the sales trenches behind its Catalyst 6500, a 12-year old product that according to the company has seen more than $42 billion in installs around the world. More than 700,000 Catalyst 6500 chassis are deployed globally, Cisco said, and the line has more than 25,000 customers worldwide.

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"The competition needs to be on notice," said Scott Gainey, Cisco's director of switching solutions. "Cisco intends to compete and intends to compete aggressively."

Cisco executives used a Tuesday press conference to reiterate Cisco's "good enough network" argument and needle competitors like HP that claim to be taking switch share from the networking titan.

"We reject this notion of good enough networks," said John McCool, senior vice president and general manager, Data Center, Switching and Services Group at Cisco. "How many of us in our personal lives would accept 'good enough' as a value premise for what we purchase?"

An upgrade to Sup 2T would cost an existing Catalyst customer $38,000, Gainey argued, whereas a comparable HP investment would be a forklift upgrade and with chassis, frame, PSU and various modules taken into consideration, would be north of $100,000. Plus, said Gainey, an HP customer only gets 720 Gbps of throughput.

"I'm paying three times the price for a system that's giving me one third the performance," he argued.

Cisco Live, which Cisco typically uses for major product launches heading into its new fiscal year, continues throughout the week amid the backdrop of thousands of rumored Cisco layoffs as part of Cisco's ongoing corporate restructuring.