Cisco brings Gigabit, IPv6 to stackables

Gigabit Ethernet will reach desktops in Cisco Systems' latest line of stackable switches, which also can support the nearly unlimited number of IP (Internet Protocol) addresses coming with the IPv6 version of that protocol, Cisco announced Tuesday at the Cisco Partner Summit in Las Vegas.

The Catalyst 3750 line of switches, intended for small businesses and branch offices and as the front lines of large enterprise LANs, are equipped with 10/100/1000M bps (bit-per-second) ports for direct connection to servers and desktop PCs. They can be connected to each other over a 32G bps ring with the company's new StackWise stacking architecture, a big step up from Cisco's current 1G bps GigaStack technology used in the Catalyst 3550 line, said Kathy Hill, vice president and general manager of the Desktop Switching Business Unit at Cisco.

The dominant Ethernet switch maker designed the 3750 line for converged voice, data and video on the LAN, network resiliency, low cost of management and product longevity, Hill said. It is also Cisco's first line of switches designed specifically with Gigabit Ethernet desktop connections in mind. As companies buy new PCs, many of them come equipped for Gigabit Ethernet, she said. Multimedia applications and the need for high-volume backups over LANs are likely to drive demand for those fast desktop connections, according to Cisco. The 3750s also can be used to link a number of servers in places where space is at a premium, such as service provider facilities where a company may rent space for hosting a Web site.

StackWise lets a stack of as many as nine 3750s operate as a single routing switch. If the switches are being used for routing, one switch serves as the master and all the route tables are distributed to all the rest of the devices. If the master should fail or be disconnected, another switch can take over as master and routing will continue uninterrupted, Hill said. Likewise, if a new switch is added, the software configuration in use by the other devices can be applied to it automatically. Even if the newly added switch has a more recent version of Cisco IOS (Internetwork Operating System) software, if the administrator wants to keep using an older version, that version can be applied on the new switch.

Support for IPv6 (IP version 6) is built in to the hardware of the 3750s so enterprises can take advantage of the benefits of the new technology, which include a much larger number of available addresses and advanced features for mobility. Demand for IPv6 is strongest in Japan and beginning to grow in Europe, said Maciej Kranz, director of marketing for the division. The key to including IPv6 support now is to equip the switches for a long period of service, even in the U.S., where there is little demand for IPv6 today, he said.

The 3750 switches will have the same software as the Catalyst 3550 for security and quality of service. An enhanced software image that includes ACLs (Access Control Lists) and HSRP (Hot Standby Router Protocol) also will be offered for enterprises that want those features on 3750 switches used for routing.

The switches will be available worldwide in June in eight hardware and software configurations. At the bottom of the price range is a switch with 24 10/100M bps ports, two SFP (small form-factor pluggable) Gigabit Ethernet interfaces for uplinks to a network backbone, and a standard software image for US$4,995. Topping the price range is a switch with 48 10/100/1000M bps ports, four SFP interfaces and enhanced multilayer routing software for $11,990. Also included in the line are 24-port 10/100/1000M bps and 48-port 10/100M bps switches with different software images and numbers of uplinks.

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