Cisco Ethernet switches to play broader video, security roles

Cisco Systems Inc.  is unveiling new Ethernet access switches and enhanced routers designed to take on more of the jobs frequently handled by separate devices, such as those dedicated to handling video traffic or ensuring network security.

Cisco’s latest offerings fit into its Borderless Networks strategy, a concept Cisco introduced with its Integrated Services Routers  last fall. Those branch office routers, dubbed ISR G2, are optimized for video and virtual services, Cisco said at the time.


This week, Cisco extended video enablement among its Catalyst fixed configuration access Ethernet switches. Cisco also expanded the energy efficiency and security capabilities among some of its switches and routers.

“The days of the stand-alone appliance that sits alongside a network are over,” says Zeus Kerravala, senior vice-president at Boston-based Yankee Group Research Inc. “Much of this stuff should belong in a network device. The value proposition is that it’s much easier to automate a lot of the process that goes into making those modifications” for video, power and security.

“The idea of Borderless Networks…gets away from the traditional idea that the network has to have a ‘hard’ edge,” says Steve Schuchart, principal analyst for data centre at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis Inc.

Even so, both analysts say Hewlett Packard Development Co. LP, which owns the ProCurve switch manufacturer, shouldn’t be in any rush to try and match or exceed what Cisco’s announced. The company will have its hands full closing the deal to acquire 3Com Corp., which HP agreed to buy last year.  After it absorbs 3Com, HP can focus on what its customers demand in video, power and security support, Kerravala and Schuchart say.

As for Cisco customers, they may have a hard time comprehending and literally buying into the company’s Borderless Networks scheme.

“Cisco’s going to have to beat this drum awfully hard,” Schuchart says. “Borderless Networks is not a thing customers are going to understand in five minutes. Cisco’s going to have to do a lot of work to drill it down to specific cases for customers.”

Some of the tangibles to this week’s Borderless Networks launch are the new switches. The Catalyst 3750-X (US$5,200) and 3560-X (US$3,400) are stackable devices with embedded security, energy efficiency, video and mobility features.

Both switches support 24 or 48 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet ports, Power over Ethernet+ capabilities, four Gigabit or two 10G Ethernet modular uplinks, and Cisco StackPower features for allowing switches in a stack to share a power supply. The 3750-X also supports Cisco StackWise Plus which enables nine switches to be grouped in a single logical unit with a 64 Gbps interconnect.

The StackWise Plus interconnect cables create a bidirectional closed loop path that allocate packets between two logical counter-rotating paths so that if a switch or cable failure is detected, traffic is wrapped back around across the remaining path to maintain uptime.

The switches also feature IEEE 802.1ae “MACSec” data encryption, which secures LANs from attacks such as passive wiretapping, masquerading, man-in-the-middle and some denial-of-service attacks. The switches also include location-based services for mobile users and Cisco EnergyWise 2.0 software for energy efficiency, and support video services that adhere to Cisco’s MediaNet network video enablement strategy.

The switches come with three software options depending on the breadth of features needed.

Cisco also announced that its TrustSec security architecture, which authenticates users based on identity and policy, is now available across the 3750/3560 switch lines.

Another new switch line is the Catalyst 2960-S. This roughly US$2,000 switch comes with 24 or 48 10/100/1000Mbps ports, four Gigabit or two 10G Ethernet SFP+ fixed uplinks, a 20Gbps stacking interconnection, and 15 watts/port PoE and PoE+. Without PoE, the 2960-S requires less than 2 watts/port, Cisco says.

The 2960-S comes with two software options based on feature requirements and price.

Borderless Networking enhancements for Cisco’s routers include MediaNet, EnergyWise and other extensions for various applications. The ISR G2 3900E, 887, 887V, 888E and 1921 platforms now have MediaNet 1.0 software for resource reservation, QoS and device detection, and embedded video processing; and EnergyWise-enabled slot-based power control and real-time reporting capabilities via a 48-port 10/100/1000Mbps EtherSwitch module.

Cisco has also added video surveillance on the routers’ Services Ready Engine modules; a NetScout probe agent on the routers’ application processing module; a 350Mbps WAN connection; VDSL2, EoSHDSL and 900MHz HSPA interfaces; and Smart Call Home automated support notification capabilities.

The ASR 1000 edge router running IOS XE 2.6 has attained Cisco Unified Border Element – or CUBE – Enterprise class session border controller features for interconnecting independent VoIP and video over IP enterprise networks. It, too, has Smart Call Home, performance routing for application-specific treatment, and VPN Routing and Forwarding-aware IPSec and firewall capabilities.

Cisco also rolled out EnergyWise Orchestrator, which extends power management to PCs and laptops in addition to PoE devices. Cisco also released tools enabling third-party developers to implement EnergyWise support in their products.

Lastly, Cisco launched a suite of professional services to help customers implement the Borderless Networks architecture. They include: Cisco Network Architecture Discovery; Assessment; and Planning and Design Services; TrustSec Readiness and Deployment Service; Cisco Services for Energy Management; and Cisco Medianet Readiness Service.


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