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Cisco Systems is building on its Borderless Network vision with a refresh of its Catalyst 2000 and 3000 lines, which includes three new “borderless-ready” switches.

The Borderless Network architecture was announced nearly a year ago, and the concept was spawned from the idea that increasing video and mobility demands are driving networks to provide more seamless, reliable and secure networking capabilities. Cisco followed the announcement of the Borderless Network architecture with the launch of the ISR G2 router in October. Now the networking
giant has announced two new Catalyst 3000 switches and a new switch in the Catalyst 2000 series.

“There’s been a fundamental change in the access networking landscape,” said Rob Soderbery, senior vice president and general manager of the Ethernet switching
technology group at
Cisco Systems. He added that a few years ago people were talking about perimeter-oriented networking, but the expectation now is that the network should be borderless and capable of offering access any time, from any place and from any device.

The borderless network was designed as an end-to-end architecture that will meet those end-user expectations, he said. For that to happen, a refresh of the Catalyst 2000 and 3000 lines was needed. Cisco is introducing the Catalyst 3750-X, 3560-X and 2960-S, all of which were designed to fit into the borderless networks vision.

The Catalyst 3000 switches have been updated with new
technology from Cisco, including 802.1ae and MKA data encryption, location-based services, increased energy efficiency with EnergyWise 2.0, and the ability to more easily configure video devices with MediaNet.

“This is a complete refresh of the Catalyst 3K product line that’s our marquee LAN access switching product line,” Soderbery said.

He spoke to the need of location-based services and how this generation of Catalyst 3000 switches takes wireless location-based services and extends those capabilities into the wired infrastructure. As an example of how the
technology could be used, Soderbery said the University of Montreal is using the
technology to keep track of nurses so a nurse can be paged wherever they are in the hospital.

“Here, Cisco’s strategy is to drive wired and wireless conversion,” he said. The end goal is to deploy consistent services across both the wired and wireless infrastructures.

Also important is the new EnergyWise 2.0
technology, which enables customers to pull together energy management from across the enterprise into a single point of control. The 1.0 version of the
technology was launched a year ago, but it was primarily focused on controlling PoE devices. EnergyWise 2.0 extends the
technology so customers can control PC endpoints, as well.

The MediaNet capabilities will allow customers to more easily connect, configure and use video devices.

“We’re really at the start of this network build-out of video. Much as voice over IP has been built out over the last few years and become standardized, the next thing to become standardized is video,” Soderbery said.

MediaNet makes it possible to auto-detect and auto-configure connected video cameras so they can be used as network devices.

“In addition to those services, it’s also a complete upgrade of the underlying platform, the hardware. Here, the focus is on resiliency, scalability and ease of use,” he said.

The new Catalyst 3000 switches support full PoE+ and 10Gb uplinks. The new Stack Power
technology also takes the concept of data stacking and moves it into power, offering more efficient power designs and redundancy for individual members of the power stack. According to Soderbery, Stack Power is seeing a lot of interest from customers.

Not to be forgotten in this announcement is the Catalyst 2960-S.

“The 2960-S is the refresh of the 2K series, and here we’re doing something quite different, in that we’re bringing all the enterprise-class features you’d expect in a network switch of this type into a very aggressive price/performance and power package. We spent a lot of time on the engineering of this box in order to support a full-featured set of capabilities in a cost-optimized price/performance package,” Soderbery said.

While the new 3000 line switches are aimed at customers with more advanced requirements, the 2960-S was designed for customers with more basic switching needs, he said. It offers many of the same capabilities of the 3000 switches, including 10Gb uplinks and full PoE+ support, but instead of StackWise
technology, the 2960-S comes equipped with StackWise’s baby brother, FlexStack. The difference is mainly around scale, with FlexStack working with smaller power stacks.

The key to the 2960-S is a low price/performance for customers with more modest needs and specific price/performance expectations, Soderberry said. Power consumption has actually been reduced by 50 per cent over the last generation of Cisco boxes, as well as over competing boxes, he said.

According to Rob Whiteley, vice president and research director for infrastructure and operations at Forrester Research, the refresh of the Catalyst 2000 and 3000 lines will help Cisco to remain competitive in an increasingly difficult market.

“The switching market is really heating up. Enterprises are quickly realizing they need to scale to 10-gig networks if they are to keep pace with the explosion in data
Traffic from virtual machines (both server and desktops), video, voice, and the usual growth in Web are quickly compounding,” Whiteley said. “As a result, there’s a lot of demand for upgrading wiring closets and fixed form-factor switches. Cisco’s refreshes were needed to remain competitive and deliver the right features to assist in these upgrades.”

While at one time Cisco was by far the king in networking, the company is getting a lot more competition from growing competitors like Juniper Networks, HP ProCurve and Brocade, Whiteley explained. Those competitors are becoming much stronger and giving Cisco a run for its money, so this refresh was critical for Cisco to remain competitive.

“Cisco’s vision around Borderless Networks is a key architectural advantage and Cisco needs to back up the vision with the Cat 2K and 3Ks, which it has done with security capabilities in particular. It’s also important that Cisco create new software licensing models so that customers can buy just the features that matter most and not get caught up in too many IOS options,” Whiteley said.

Warren Shiau, senior associate at The Strategic Counsel, noted that the Catalyst refresh shows a lot of design and use enhancement.

“I think the real significance of what Cisco’s doing these days is around video, device proliferation, getting all these devices on the network, and delivering a ‘bigger pipe’ to consumers and business,” Shiau said.

Additionally, the company is gearing up to support its channel partners that will be selling the new Catalyst switches.

“Along with the product launch, we are focusing on improving both partner economics as well as partner service opportunity,” Soderbery said. “On the partner economics side, using the VIP15 program … [we] allow them to enjoy better profitability on the products. On the services side, there’s a tremendous opportunity around services.” Energy efficiency and video are two of the key messages for partners to drive additional service opportunities, he added.

The focus for the channel will be the enterprise and public sector (or any organization with sophisticated networking demands) for the Catalyst 3000 products and smaller enterprise organizations with less demanding networking needs for the Catalyst 2000 switch, he said.

There’s also a follow-on opportunity story for partners.

“As we continue to invest, we’re rolling out services in these areas that essentially layer on top of these network platforms,” Soderbery said.

Partners will have the opportunity to deploy basic network capabilities on day one, but then roll out additional services to clients as they are needed, he added.

“Cisco’s wider message, which they’re wrapping around Catalyst and other product lines, is very clean. I think it’s something IT management will be able to take to non-IT leadership or that the channel can run with when selling the ‘Cisco vision,’” said Shiau.