Cisco powers up Catalyst switches

Cisco Systems Inc. recently rolled out Catalyst switches with industry-standard power over Ethernet (PoE) capability, allowing users to more easily deploy a range of devices including IP phones, wireless LANs and IP security cameras.

Cisco has been shipping pre-standard PoE gear since 2000. Other network vendors, including 3Com Corp., Alcatel, Avaya Inc., Extreme Networks Inc., Foundry Networks Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Nortel Networks have had industry standard 802.3af gear since last year.

Cisco is shipping 802.3af equipment for the Catalyst 3560, Catalyst 3750, Catalyst 4500 and Catalyst 6500.

The biggest difference between Cisco’s pre-standard PoE and the 802.3af standard is the available power, said Steven Shalita, senior manager of worldwide product marketing at Cisco. The pre-standard gear supported up to 6.3 watts per port, while the new standard more than doubles that at 15.4 watts.

Pre-standard PoE products were designed to support basic IP phones and wireless implementations, Shalita noted, but the new standard, with its higher power, can support a wider range of equipment.

“The promise PoE brings and the vision that we see is really a whole new range of devices you’re going to be able to connect to the network infrastructure for connectivity as well as power,” Shalita said. Those devices can now include next-generation IP phones with colour and videoconferencing capability as well as IP-based security cameras.

The new 802.3af gear will continue to support equipment that runs on Cisco’s pre-standard PoE implementation.

Exempla Healthcare of Denver, a managed care organization that supports two hospitals, recently deployed Cisco 802.3af gear. Catalyst 6509s, which are outfitted with the 802.3af blades, support its more than 300 Wi-Fi access points and Cisco IP phones.

Exempla rolled out wireless to support mobile nursing stations that let nurses access patient charts and a database over a wireless LAN. Powering the 275 access points spread across three hospitals helped the firm reduce its project costs by 12 per cent at one hospital and 22 per cent at another.

“Not having to pull a 110-volt electrical outlet to each (access point) was a tremendous cost savings,” said Lots Pook, CTO at Exempla. The firm also uses PoE switches to power 120 Cisco IP phones in a pilot IP telephony project.

Cisco PoE blades and fixed-configuration switches include: 48-port 10/100/1,000Mbps modules for the Catalyst 6500, listing at US$14,000 and for the 4500, listing at US$7,500; 48-port 10/100 modules for the Catalyst 6500, listing at US$8,000 and for the 4500, listing at US$6,500; a 96-port 10/100 module for the Catalyst 6500, listing at US$US$14,000; 24- and 48-port versions of the Catalyst 3750, starting at US$4,800; and 24- and 48-port versions of the Catalyst 3560, starting at US$3,800.

Cisco includes Intelligent Power Management capabilities with its PoE products, that allow network managers to optimize the power allocation to each PoE port. This can be important, Shalita noted, because at 15.4 watts per port, a PoE switch can consume a lot of power. “

People need to realize you have to be able to deliver the power,” he said. “It doesn’t appear magically.”

— with files from IDG News Service