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Cisco Systems Expands Catalyst 9000 Line With Wireless Controller, Mid-market Switch

‘This is the Catalyst nobody expected,’ Cisco Senior Vice President of Product Management Sachin Gupta says of the Catalyst 9800 controller. ‘We're unifying access in a way that's never been done before. This was the right time to unify the brand. No one expected this, but it just makes sense.’

Cisco Systems is expanding its intent-based networking strategy and its fast-growing Catalyst 9000 family into the mid-market and stitching the entire product line together in a way that executives say will catch competitors off guard.

The San Jose, Calif., networking giant took the wraps off a Catalyst 9800 wireless controller and a Catalyst 9200 switch Tuesday at its massive Cisco Partner Summit event in Las Vegas.

"This is the Catalyst nobody expected," Cisco Senior Vice President of Product Management Sachin Gupta said of the Catalyst 9800 controller. "We're unifying access in a way that's never been done before. This was the right time to unify the brand. No one expected this, but it just makes sense."

The Catalyst 9200 switch is the next generation of Cisco's venerable, high-volume Catalyst 2960 series.

Each of the new products demonstrates Cisco's drive to expand its Catalyst 9000 family without watering it down. The capabilities that have helped the product family become the company's fastest-growing since its launch in June 2017 remain as it moves down-market.

"Customers are telling us the approach we're taking with intent-based networking is the right approach," Gupta said. "That approach creates value and stickiness across domains. We can link these now in a way that each domain provides consistency of capability on a whole new level, and that helps us win."

The Catalyst 9800 wireless controller has been in development for two years, Gupta said, and was built from the ground up as part of Cisco's intent-based networking strategy. The controller can run as an appliance, can run in a private virtual environment on either KVM or VMware environments or in the public cloud. It can also run it embedded in a switch, Gupta said.

The IOS XE operating system is the same one that runs in all of Cisco's other Catalyst switches, controllers and routers. The new switch and controller feature fully open APIs to provision infrastructure, as well as retrieve data from the infrastructure. "We haven't seen any of this from anybody else," Gupta said. We're really raising the bar for what it means to have wireless architecture in access."

Vinu Thomas, CTO of New York-based Presidio, a solution provider giant that has worked closely with Cisco on the Catalyst 9000 line, said the expansion of the portfolio makes perfect sense for a market that is rapidly embracing wireless technologies and IoT.

"The expansion with the 9200 is what our customers are looking for," Thomas said. "It's a natural extension of the Cat9K platform. What I'm more excited about is the 9800, the wireless controller. It's brilliant for Cisco to stitch wired and wireless together. That's always been a slight gap. You're managing wired in a different way than you're managing wireless, but IoT and mobility is tying them together. We've heard from customers that that's been a challenge to manage."

The variety of deployment options for the Catalyst 9800 is also key to its appeal, Thomas said. "That gives our customers a lot of different options. The flexibility of being embedded in a switch, on public cloud, managed with the wired is pretty innovative."

Thomas said Cisco has realized with the Catalyst 9000 family that the future of the network is open and the development of intelligent applications on top of Cisco technology is key for solution providers. "It's what our customers are expecting us to do. When you look at the level of visibility our customers want in terms of things like power consumption, quality of service, security, the fact that you have this open platform allows us to write intelligent applications on top of this that we can then take to market. We can just plain managed a Cat9K network environment, we can take it a level higher by saying we can build customer applications on top of these platforms and we can also manage the whole thing, and we can manage the whole thing from a security standpoint, both wired and wireless."

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