Nortel trumpets stackable Ethernet switch

Overlooked the week Nortel Networks announced it was going into bankruptcy protection was the introduction of a new Ethernet switch the company is betting a lot on.

The Ethernet Routing Switch 5600 is a series of five stackable units Nortel says offers up to 18 times the stackable performance, twice the capacity and up to seven times the resiliency of comparable switches.

The competition includes Cisco Systems’ Catalyst 3750 series, Juniper Networks’ EX4200 as well as switches from Hewlett-Packard and 3Com.

“This is tremendously important to Nortel from a differentiation [from competitors’] point of view,” said Jake Power, Nortel’s director of marketing for communications solutions. “It’s a huge piece of our portfolio … This is going to be one of the main products we roll out this year, and a main revenue driver for 2009 and beyond.”

Designed mainly as an edge router, the unit’s flexibility also allows it to be placed in the data centre and used as a virtual chassis, the company said. Up to eight ERS 5600s can be stacked with the ERS 5500 to offer up to 400 ports, giving customers of that model investment protection, Nortel emphasized. It has a per-unit stacking capacity of 144Gbps and a maximum stacking backplane of 1.152Tbps.

“We think we have a huge advantage in terms of the stacking bandwidth versus our competitors,” said Bob Reason, Nortel’s manager of enterprise data marketing.

Mark Fabbi, an Uxbridge, Ont.,-based Gartner distinguished analyst who specializes in enterprise network infrastructure, called the ERS 5600 “a pretty significant improvement in the Nortel product line.”

However, he added, Nortel’s financial shape “is the dark cloud” hanging over its head.

Models start at US$7,999 and go up to $19,999 depending on the features. The ERS 5650TD has 48 ports of 10/1000/1000Base-T plus two 10GbE XFP ports. The ERS 5698-TDF has 96 ports, six combo SFX ports and two XFP ports. There are Power over Ethernet versions of these modes, that can automatically detect IP phones, so they can be used in voice as well as data environments. The ERS 5632FD has 24 SFP ports plus eight 10Gb XFP ports.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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