Showtime for LAN Switching

Looking to help users get more bang out of their existing network gear, Cisco Systems and Cabletron Systems this week will offer a variety of LAN switching enhancements at ComNet 2000.

Cisco will roll out a new Catalyst 4000 switch and line card enhancements for the Catalyst 4000 and 5000 that will let users support new applications, such as converged voice/data programs. Rival Cabletron will enable users of its SmartSwitch 6000 to transform the device into a Layer 3 switch via a new gigabit routing module.

In Cisco's case, the vendor is looking to add incremental core switch intelligence to wiring closet devices without requiring users to break the bank replacing older gear.

Cabletron too wants to help its installed base of SmartSwitch users upgrade those Layer 2 switches to Layer 3 devices without replacing entire boxes.

Cisco's offering will include the Catalyst 4006, a six-slot version and second member of the year-old Catalyst 4000 line, sources say. Currently, the Catalyst 4000 line consists of the three-slot Catalyst 4003, which offers 24G bit/sec of switching bandwidth and supports up to 96 ports of 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet or 36 ports of Gigabit Ethernet.

The Catalyst 4006 scales up to 60G bit/sec and sports up to 240 10/100 ports and 90 Gigabit Ethernet ports. The switch is targeted at enterprise wiring closets requiring high levels of quality of service (QoS), but it can also be used in small and midsize enterprise core backbones.

Layer 3 services are enabled through a new 32-port 10/100 Layer 3 services engine line card with two Gigabit Ethernet uplinks. This card is compatible with the 4006 and 4003 chassis and supervisor switch engine modules. The Layer 3 services engine enables all ports on the switch to run IP Multicast services at wire speed, sources say. It also delivers QoS using multiple queues with scheduling and type-of-service/ class-of-service field marking.

The 4006 can be populated with up to five Layer 3 services engine line cards, sources say.

Cisco declined to comment on the 4006 and other announcements expected at ComNet. But sources say Cisco will also roll out a 48-port 10/100 telco line card and a 24-port 100Base FX line card for the Catalyst 4000 switches. These cards are designed to give customers more connectivity options, sources say.

For the Catalyst 5000, Cisco is expected to unveil two new modules: a two-port QoS-enabled gigabit interface converter (GBIC) uplink and a 24-port 100BaseFX single-mode fiber MT-RJ switching module. The new GBIC uplink module delivers QoS capabilities such as classification, prioritization and scheduling.

The 24-port 100BaseFX single-mode fiber MT-RJ switching module enables service providers to build metropolitan-area networks with sophisticated QoS classification, sources say. With this module, traffic can be prioritized according to ports and IP addresses.

The Catalyst 4006, supervisor module, Telco and 100BaseFX modules are available now. The Layer 3 services line card will be available within 60 days. The list price for a Catalyst 4006, supervisor module, power supplies and 240 Fast Ethernet and two Gigabit Ethernet ports is less than $150 per port.

Cabletron offers upgrades

Cabletron customers also now have the opportunity to add more sophisticated features to their existing switches with a significant upgrade. Cabletron's Advanced Router Module (ARM) for the SmartSwitch 6000 adds Layer 3 capabilities to the switch so users can prepare for new applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning and packetized voice.

The ARM is essentially a "SmartSwitch Router 2000 on a stick," says Cabletron product marketing manager Brady Cole. "It basically turns the 6000 into a Layer 3 switch."

Cabletron's SmartSwitch Router 2000 is a router for small and midsize enterprises and branch offices. ARM brings the same features of the SSR 2000 to the SmartSwitch 6000: an 8G bit/sec switching fabric capable of forwarding 6 million packet/sec, support for 16,000 routes, 128,000 application flows and 180,000 media access control addresses, and up to 2,000 filters.

ARM can also recognise Layer 4 TCP and UDP port number information at wire speed, Cole says, which is important for providing security, allocating QoS, collecting statistics and performing accounting.

ARM supports eight-port 10/100Base-TX and 100Base-FX interfaces; two-port 1000Base-SX/LX and single-port 1000Base-LLX line cards; and a dual-port T-1 WAN module. It costs $9,000 and will be available in February.

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