Switching strategies in the new year

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems ended the year with a slew of product announcements, and although later to market than some other vendors, the company’s strategy may pay off in the long run, according to one analyst.

The Catalyst 2950 and 3550 Series Intelligent Ethernet Switches are intended to replace the 2900 and 3500 series, and the 3550 series, released at the same time, is IP routing capable. The company also released a 48-port 10/100/1000Base-T Line Card for the 4000 Catalyst and a switching network module for its 2600 and 3600 series routers.

Within the 3550 series, the three modules are the 3550-24, 3550-48 and the 3550-12G. The latter has a 12-port gigabit configuration, which is a 10Gb Interface Connector (GBIC).

“All the 3550 Switches are multi-layer IP routing capable and come embedded with the Cisco Clustered Management Suite, a Web application for the management of clustered switches,” said Mark Szelenyi, director of product marketing for Cisco in San Jose, Calif.

In the 2950 series, two switches have already been introduced to the market, including the 2950 T-24. Szelenyi said they have now added the GBIC module conversions for the switches and a DC version for the 24-port box. Both lines now offer Layers 3 and 4 functionality.

As for the 2600 and 3600 series routers, “(they) have a module slot in them. We’re introducing a 16-port Ethernet switch module (and) it can be inserted into the router chassis,” he added.

What is potentially significant about the product announcement is that Cisco is now entering into markets that it had previously shied away from.

“Cisco is being very, very aggressive in going after mid-size and small business opportunities and that should spell trouble for its competitors, including 3Com and Nortel,” said Stan Schatt, vice-president and research leader for Giga Information Group in Carlsbad, Calif.

With prices in decline for port density, Schatt said Cisco has in turn lowered its prices and it is through this approach that it is being seen as aggressively branching out into small- and medium-sized markets. However, the increased port density is not seen as vital, as several vendors had already begun to gravitate toward the general trend of increasing ports. While not the first to market, the strategy may in fact pay long-term dividends.

“Cisco has entered the market relatively late, and because they did, it came in with technologies that were in some cases (an) upgrade over its competitors. Its switching fabric is significantly greater,” Schatt added.

Lawrence Orans, senior analyst for Gartner in Stamford, Conn., agreed with Schatt that the lower price does make the announcement an attractive option. But he was also quick to add that while it is indeed a price-competitive option, it is only attractive for enterprises that need more speed immediately. Also, the addition of Layers 3 and 4 functionality is a basic trend in the industry, and he said Cisco is merely responding to that trend.

While Schatt said the router announcement was rather ordinary since “you can stick any router in there and it will pretty much do the same thing,” Orans found a practical application.

“If you have a small branch office where you can get up to these 16 users, you can support the data from just one box as opposed to a separate box,” Orans said.

For complete pricing, visit the company’s Canadian Web site at www.cisco.com/ca.