analyst, UBS Warburg

Cisco is readying a Catalyst 6500 switch upgrade that will double bandwidth on the device, offering customers greater support for 10Gbps Ethernet LANs, according to a report.

The company plans to launch in the next two months a new switch backplane called the Supervisor 1440 module for the Catalyst 6500, according to the report by UBS Warburg.

The module will support 1.4Tbps of bandwidth to the switch, doubling the capacity of the previous Supervisor 720 module. The Supervisor module on a Cisco Catalyst 6500 provides the switching fabric for the entire chassis, moving traffic across ports on different line cards inside the switch.

Cisco declined to comment on the report. All vendors will feel some increased pressure from Cisco.Long Jiang>Text “Cisco has not done an update for almost two years,” said Long Jiang, a UBS Warburg analyst. “And now that they are doing it, it’s going to make them more competitive. All vendors will feel some increased pressure from Cisco.”

The Supervisor 1440 is the first major upgrade to the backplane of the Catalyst 6500 since the Supervisor 720 module was introduced in 2003.

Cisco has packed all kinds of services into the Catalyst 6500 over the years, ranging from VPN concentration, firewall, intrusion detection systems, wireless LAN management, content switching and XML traffic acceleration. But Cisco has been playing catch-up for years in terms of pure high-end switching capacity. Rivals Extreme, Force10 and Foundry have had terabit switches for more than a year.

“Cisco narrows the (performance) gap vs. the competition, but it’s not a leapfrog,” Jiang said.

The Supervisor 1440 will still come up short in terms of total switching capacity compared with Extreme’s BlackDiamond 10K, Foundry’s BigIron and Force10’s E1200 switch.

However, any lag in raw horsepower has not affected Cisco’s position in the market. The Catalyst 6500 dominates rival products, with Cisco grabbing more than 70 per cent market share in modular Layer 3 switching and 10Gbps Ethernet switching revenue last year, according to InStat.

The Catalyst 6500 brought in US$6.7 billion in revenue in the calendar year 2004, the research firm says. Catalyst products accounted for 40 per cent of its fourth-quarter revenue for fiscal 2005, which ends this month.

It’s expected the introduction of the new module will coincide with new high-density Gigabit and 10Gbps Ethernet modules, which can take advantage of the larger switch backplane, analysts say.

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