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Channel partners were at no loss for words after Cisco Systems Inc.‘s announcement last week of enhancements to its Catalyst line, such as increased security, Gigabit Ethernet-enabled IP phone capabilities and POE (power over Ethernet).

“While electrical power over Ethernet is not new, it does have value for our customers,” said Robert Keblusek, senior vice president of business development at Sentinel Technologies Inc., a value-added integrator.

“Many of our customers power phones, video endpoints and wireless access points or bridges over Ethernet already,” Keblusek said. “The ROI [return on investment] is excellent considering there is no need for a local A/C connection, and the devices benefit from the UPS system on the switch.

“In addition, the new Cisco 1000Mbps compatible phone will benefit a number of our customers that both have a converged Cisco voice solution and desire 1000Mbps to the desktop,” he said.

“We have a number of manufacturing, health care and financial firms that have applications that lend themselves to gigabit connectivity, and the new Cisco Catalyst switch enhancements will be well-received by customers with the need for gigabit to the desktop,” Keblusek said.

“We do IP videoconferencing, IP surveillance video and streaming video over IP,” he said. “Since video requires higher bandwidth and an intelligent network, especially when combined with voice, the new Catalyst enhancements will offer our customers the performance and resilience required to assure real-time communications meet and exceed the service levels they require.”

Cisco claims that its Catalyst 6500 Supervisor Engine 32, with Policy Feature Card 3B, mitigates against DoS (denial of service) attacks at the edge. “Security is a big deal for everybody,” said Dave Burns, director of operations at Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions.

“Cisco is trying to build security into the edge as well as the core. They are trying to stop network viruses, worms and denial-of-service attacks before they can affect the core and spread throughout the network,” Burns said.

“The security announcements are great,” said Keblusek, including the support for NAC (Network Admission Control) and 802.1x authentication enhancements. “These enhancements will help assure our customers that they can leverage the Cisco self-defending network to provide a highly secure computing environment. We are seeing a lot of interest in these technologies to combat the more sophisticated threats affecting our customers’ networks.”

Cisco touted network and application availability with Layer 3 NSF/SSO (Nonstop Forwarding with Stateful Switchover) on the Cisco Catalyst 6500 and Layer 2 SSO on the Cisco Catalyst 6500 and Cisco Catalyst 4500 by enabling sub-second failover for continuity of mission-critical services such as IP telephony. The Catalyst 6500 series has diagnostics to proactively detect and addresses potential faults in the switch.

“Additional redundancy of sub-second failover on the Catalyst 4000 line is very attractive for customers seeking high-availability, converged networks but who are not in the market for a Catalyst 6000-class solution,” Keblusek said.

Cisco’s Catalyst switch portfolio will support 10GbE (Gigabit Ethernet) to the network edge in its modular switches. The new Catalyst 6500 Supervisor Engine 32 comes in a choice of two 10GbE XENPAK-based or eight one GbE SFP (Small Form Factor Pluggable)-based uplinks.

“In the short term, the new 10 GigE supervisor will have the most impact for customers,” Burns said. “Many of the other new Catalyst products are adding features more than introducing new choices.

“In the service provider space, I think the Content Engine that also terminates SSL connections in a 6500 blade will be something that will allow companies like ours to continue to extend the capabilities of our core Catalyst switches,” he said.

New to the series, Catalyst 4500 is a Layer 2/3/4 Supervisor Engine V-10GE with dual wire-speed 10 GbE ports or four GbE ports.

Cisco claims that its 7971G-GE IP phone allows unconstrained GbE bandwidth from the network to the desktop, and Cisco’s is there with 10/100/1000 Ethernet switches with IEEE 802.3af standards-based POE capabilities to power the IP phone and other network user devices.

Cisco is also pushing GbE to the desktop.

“Gigabit to the desktop is becoming increasingly popular as applications require more bandwidth,” said Jason Herndon, director of Cisco business development at NetGain Technologies Inc., a systems integrator headquartered in Lexington, K.Y.

“It is encouraging to see Cisco introduce smaller-density wiring closet switches capable of Gigabit to the desktop,” Herndon said. “The return on investment is still challenging for smaller companies, but like any new technology, the price point will eventually decrease. Larger enterprises have already begun embracing Gigabit to the desktop and are budgeting for it in the near future.”

“As a systems integration company, NetGain Technologies has a strong focus on IP telephony,” Herndon said. “It is also very encouraging to see Cisco develop not only switches to deliver Gigabit to the desktop but to also provide in-line power over that link.”

What it all adds up to is that resellers are hoping that all of the new speed and products will lead to customers embracing GbE on the LAN.

“Certainly the supervisor engines with additional capacity and 10G interfaces will help drive customers that formerly would not consider 10G Ethernet to consider this within their networks,” Keblusek said. “When considering 1000Mbps to the desktop and convergence of voice, video, data and storage on the modern IP network, 10G technology becomes very relevant.”

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