Cisco Systems next quarter will give IT managers increased ability to prioritise network traffic by type of application when it augments its venerable Catalyst 5000 and 5500 series LAN switches with significantly more sophisticated port modules.
In addition to providing more control over existing applications, Cisco plans to position these modules as major new tools for enabling voice over IP.
A new generation of interfaces will be able to compress voice traffic to reduce bandwidth demands while at the same time give time-sensitive voice traffic priority on the network, according to sources familiar with Cisco's plans.
With applications competing for bandwidth on LANs and WANs, users are demanding ways to prioritise some applications over others at the port level.
In general, LANs and WANs that can carry IP voice and video as well as data are expected to drive down telecommunications costs and may simplify enterprise networks. By providing more sophisticated port modules, Cisco will embed the quality-of-service functions necessary for multiservice LANs directly into network hardware. Providing the capability at that level should speed performance and prevent bottlenecks, observers said.
"If you're going to do it at the port level, you've got the ability to distribute that processing power, and you can increase the effective processing power of the switch," said Michael Speyer, an analyst at the Yankee Group, in Boston.
Last month Cisco introduced a new generation of aggregation switches, the Catalyst 6000 line, that can also prioritise voice and other applications on the port. At the same time, the company added voice capabilities for the 5000 and 5500 in the NetFlow feature card and through Internetwork Operating System software. But the coming modules will let many enterprises bring the per-port capability to their existing switches.