Enterasys scales up enterprise switching

Enterasys Networks Inc. supersized its gear for enterprise LANs on Monday, introducing a series of bigger routing switches as well as port modules with higher performance and advanced traffic-handling features.

The new switch series, called the Matrix N-Series, complements the company’s existing E-Series switches. The modules introduced Monday, called Distributed Forwarding Engines DFEs), can be installed in the company’s existing Matrix E-Series switches as well as the new N-Series platforms.

Enterasys is looking to step up LAN performance for enterprises with growing needs for bandwidth, security and traffic prioritization, a set of demands that some analysts believe are starting to hit enterprises. For example, the DFEs, which include all switching and routing functions within an individual port module, can recognize voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) traffic and give it priority over other types of traffic, according to Enterasys.

“Enterprise IP telephony deployments have been fairly slow, but one of the reasons they have been slow is that these features haven’t been available,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at The Yankee Group, in Boston.

For secure wireless LANs, the Enterasys gear can send security and traffic priority policies for a particular user out to Enterasys wireless access points when that user goes on the wireless LAN, according to Bill Clark, director of product marketing for Enterasys’ switch product group. If an enterprise uses non-Enterasys access points, those policies can be applied at the switch port where the access point links up to the wired LAN – a different policy for each user, he added.

Enterasys, like Cisco Systems Inc., is moving in the right direction by integrating high-level functions into the network gear itself, along with user authentication and enhanced quality of service (QoS) for business-critical applications, Kerravala said. That helps to automate the capabilities, leaving less room for human error and providing greater reliability, he said.

Although basic enterprise LAN gear has fallen dramatically in price in recent years, most large enterprises still want to team up with a high-end vendor such as Enterasys or Cisco to take advantage of innovations, said Chris Kozup, an analyst at Meta Group Inc., in Stamford, Conn. However, they shouldn’t buy into new technologies for their own sake, he added.

“They need to match the requirements that the business has with the functionality that the network provides,” Kozup said.

The N-Series switches provide Ethernet connectivity for new enterprise LAN deployments, which typically use Ethernet exclusively, said Bill Clark, director of product marketing for Enterasys’ switch product group. Enterasys will continue offering the E-Series switches, which can include interfaces for legacy technologies such as Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and Fibre Distributed Data Interface (FDDI).

The company on Monday introduced two N-Series chassis. The Matrix N7, for medium-sized and large wiring closets and data centers, has seven usable slots and can handle as many as 94.5 million packets per second. It can accommodate as many as 504 10/100Mbps Ethernet ports. The Matrix N3, for small and medium-sized installations, has three usable slots for as many as 216 10/100Mbps ports and performance of 40.5 million packets per second. Both are designed for integration of power-over-Ethernet capability to power wireless LAN access points and IP phones.

Enterasys also unveiled a variety of DFEs:

– a 48-port 10/100Mbps module

– a 72-port 10/100Mbps module with RJ21 ports for high-density wiring closets

– a 12-port gigabit Ethernet module with fibre capability for uplinks

– a 30-port 10/100/1000Mbps module for Ethernet up to 1Gbps speeds over copper wire

– a module with two 10-gigabit Ethernet ports, one active and the other as a back-up

– a 48-port 100Base-FX module for fibre-based user access, which uses Multiple Terminations Register Jack (MTRJ) interfaces

– a 6-port gigabit Ethernet module

A Matrix N3 with one 48-port 10/100Mbps module is priced starting at US$18,500, including the chassis, power supplies and fan. A Matrix N7 with the 48-port 10/100Mbps module is priced from US$21,500. The switches and DFEs can be ordered now and will ship beginning in May.

Enterasys is online at www.enterasys.com.