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Cisco Systems on Monday continued to deliver on its initiative to bring more advanced services to growing SMB (small and midsized business) networks with a series of Catalyst switching enhancements.

Among the latest SMB offerings are a new supervisor and line card options for the Catalyst 4503 modular switching chassis; a fixed-form-factor Catalyst 4948 switch aimed at server aggregation; and an entry-level management application designed to simplify configuration of more advanced services such as QOS (quality of service).

SMBs are looking to integrate VOIP (voice over IP) as well as wireless networks into their LANs. Both of those require POE (Power over Ethernet). They are also looking for increased flexibility and reliability, according to Peter Alexander, vice president of commercial worldwide marketing at San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems Inc.

“These solutions are really for the ‘M’ in SMB and not for the ‘S.’ It is a good segment to focus on,” said industry analyst Kneko Burney, chief market strategist at InStat/MDR in Scottsdale, Ariz. “They will broaden their focus, but that’s a great start for them.”

The new Supervisor II module for the Catalyst 4503 provides aggregate switching capacity of 20 gigabits per second, and it supports 12 ports operating at wire speed with POE as an option. It also boosts the number of ports supported in the chassis switch to 116 from 100, giving users a lower cost per port.

The new line cards range from a 24-port 10/100 module to a 24-port 10/100/1000 module with POE, with prices from $2,495 to $4,495. The Supervisor II module is $5,995.

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The Catalyst 4948 switch provides 48 10/100/1000 ports in a 1 RU form factor. The $13,495 switch is designed for space-constrained, rack-mounted server environments.

“The 4948 isn’t doing much more than your average Gigabit [Ethernet] switch. The nice thing about it is high-density Gigabit [connectivity], which you can’t get with those [average switches],” said early user Mike Walton, IT director at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

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To simplify configuration of the switches and of more advanced services, Cisco also added the free Cisco Network Assistant.

The graphical application includes wizard technology that automates what were more complex, command-line tasks required to configure security or QOS functions.

“If a user is connecting an IP phone, they can configure a port as a phone port, and it will map to a sequence of IOS commands we deem as best practices for configuring a phone,” said John McCool, vice president and general manager of the Gigabit systems business unit in San Jose.

“We think of this as a [Cisco Certified Internet Engineer] in a box,” he said. It runs on Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

“It gives you all the basic configurations for VLANs, trunking and other port options you’d configure with the command-line interface, but you use a GUI instead. That’s great because an average small business won’t have experience with a Catalyst CLI,” Walton said.

All of the new offerings are available now except for the Supervisor II module, which is due in October.

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