Cisco bulks up Catalyst switching line

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems Inc. unveiled four new 1000Base-T switching products in its Catalyst line.

Targeted at companies and corporate branches with 100 to 999 employees, the new products are based on the Cisco Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data (AVVID) networking architecture. The four products are the Cisco Catalyst 2950 Series, the Cisco Catalyst 3550-12T, the Cisco Catalyst 4000 Series 24-Port 10/100/1000Base-T Line Card and the Cisco 1000Base-T gigabit interface converter (GBIC).

The Catalyst 2950 is a family of four fixed-configuration, wire-speed, stand-alone Fast Ethernet switches with 10/100/1000Base-T uplinks. The Catalyst 2950 features an 8.8Gbps switching fabric and has a maximum forwarding rate of 6.6 million packets per second.

According to Ishmael Limkakeng, product manager at Cisco, the Catalyst 2950 complements the Catalyst 3550-12T switch, which is Cisco’s first stackable multi-layer gigabit Ethernet aggregation switch. The Catalyst 3550-12T has 10 10/100/1000Base-T ports and two GBIC slots, as well as services such as IP routing, quality of service (QoS) and IP security.

“And what we see that as is a great aggregator for the 2950 with the 1000Base-T uplinks, providing a lot of network intelligence as an aggregator to those switches or even sitting in front of a server farm,” Limkakeng said.

The Catalyst 4000 Series 24-Port 10/100/1000Base-T Line Card is a modular system line card with auto-sensing features that supports 10Mbps, 100Mbps and 1000Mbps speeds on the same interface for migration to gigabit Ethernet. According to Cisco, the line card allows customers to use existing copper cabling and avoid costly fibre installations.

Cisco’s 1000Base-T GBIC provides full duplex gigabit Ethernet to workstations and between wiring closets.

According to Martha Young, research director at Boulder, Co.-based Enterprise Management Associates, the Catalyst products and a joint marketing partnership between Cisco and Intel Corp. rounds out Cisco’s switching line. Cisco has often maintained a spot in the top three switching companies, but had started to slip in market share, she added.

“Part of that slippage was the inability to support some of the emerging technologies, specifically gigabit copper at a Layer 3 level,” Young said. “And those switches that they introduced fill a gap within their product line that they hadn’t been able to fill previously. And it included the ability to support the AVVID architecture that they’ve been talking about for a year now.”

According to Young, AVVID is the next big wave in networking architecting.

Cisco’s strength in switching is its ability to comply with standards and make its products interoperable with other products, however the other vendors are manufacturing standards-based switches as well, Young said.

The Intel partnership announcement is important because Intel is the top producer of gigabit network interface cards (NICs), an area that Cisco hasn’t delved into, Young said.

“You have to have those NIC cards in order to be able to have the connectivity, whether it be at the server level or the desktop,” Young said. The partnership with Intel rounds out Cisco’s line, allowing them to provide an end-to-end solution, she said.

Cisco and Intel announced their partnership to jointly market gigabit Ethernet in May. They will be offering a gigabit Ethernet solution that combines Cisco and Intel products.

The Catalyst products are available now. The Catalyst 3550-12T is priced at US$9,995, or US$833 per port. The Catalyst 2950 switches range from US$1,495 to US$2,995. The Catalyst 1000Base-T GBIC is priced at US$395, and the Catalyst 4000 Series 24-port 10/100/1000Base-T Line Card costs US$8,995, or US$375 per port. Cisco is on the Web at