Cisco rolls out edge-intelligence devices

Cisco rolls out edge-intelligence devices

Taking another step in its move to push intelligence to the edge of the network, Cisco on Monday unveiled a group of products with advanced switching and routing capabilities for mid-sized enterprises.

A total of seven new products were introduced. Three new additions were made to the Catalyst 3550 family of intelligent Ethernet switches: the 3550-12G (with 12GB interface converter ports), 3550-24 (with 24 copper 10/100 ports), and 3550-48 (with 48 copper 10/100 ports).

The stackable, multi-layer 3550 switches support IP (Internet protocol) routing and are designed to work in enterprise wiring closets as access switches, according to Kathy Hill, vice president of Cisco's desktop switching business unit. For mid-sized networks, the switches also work as backbone switches, Hill said.

"The new 3550 switches maintain the affordability and simplicity of our stackable family, but with true multi-layer switching," Hill said.

The new 3550 devices can also improve service quality by limiting bandwidth rates and classifying traffic based upon MAC (media access control) address, IP address, and application.

Meanwhile, four new Catalyst 2950 switches were also rolled out. The 2950G-24-DC (which offers 24GB interface converter ports and DC power for service providers), 2950G-12 (with 12GB interface converter ports), 2950-24 (with 24 copper 10/100 ports), and 2950-48 (with 48 copper 10/100 ports) all deliver Layers 3 and 4 services to the edge of the network.

The 2950 switches offer the same basic services as the 3550, but are aimed at relatively lightweight services and present a more affordable option than the 3550 family, Hill said.

Cisco also announced enhancements to its Catalyst 4000 switch, aimed at wiring closets and branch offices, that will provision Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop. The 4000 offers a 48-port 10/100/1000Mbps line card at a price low enough -- $US208 per port -- for enterprises to be deployed at every desktop, according to Mark Foss, product manager of Cisco's gigabit switching group.

"We've matched the density of 10/100 to 10/100/1000," Foss said. "Now you can deploy 10/100/1000 in place of 10/100."

Some observers have questioned whether desktop users actually need gigabit Ethernet connectivity. But applications that could benefit from high speeds are already here, Foss said, particularly in the education, entertainment, manufacturing, financial services, and tourism markets, which use streaming video and perform large file transfers and backups. In any case, the 4000's low price makes it an appealing technology for future-proofing, Foss said.

Cisco also announced enhancements to its Cluster Management Suite (CMS), an embedded Web application that lets enterprises use a single IP address to manage a cluster of switches. The new version of CMS offers wizards that automatically configure voice, video, and high-priority data ports; enhanced control over network adds, moves, and changes; improved LAN troubleshooting tools; and automated software upgrades.

"With all of the intelligence that we're adding, we want to still save time from an administrator's point of view and simplify their management tasks," Hill explained.

Many analysts see edge intelligence as the next big step in networking technology. Increased computing power and higher bandwidth demands are combining to put more strain on networks, Hill said, which in turn is leading many enterprises to offload processing from the network core to edge devices.

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