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Cisco Catalyst Update Lowers Cost and Triples Performance Of HP Switch

At its annual customer event, Cisco Live, Cisco said that the latest Catalyst 6500 40Gbit-ready switch features the Supervisor Engine 2T (Sup-2T), a 2-Tbit card that unlocks 80 Gbits per second per slot, 10-Gbit and 10-Gbit Ethernet line cards, IPv4 and IPv6 support from the switch's hardware platform, network virtualization capabilities, L4 to L7 integrated services modules, and application performance and visibility monitoring through a revamped NetFlow.

LAS VEGAS: An avid advocate of the preemptive "strike-and-kick-'em-while-they're-down" school of business, HP offered its take on customers "that are tired of complex, inflexible, hard-to-manage and expensive Cisco networks" just prior to Cisco announcing a major refresh of its flagship Catalyst 6500 series switches. The enterprise network market is worth $30 billion, blogs Mary Gabra, manager, market and competitive intelligence, HP Networking, and HP is eating a bigger piece of it while other long-lasting leaders like Cisco are struggling to keep their share. "Not too long ago, the networking market was known to be a market that had Cisco and the seven dwarfs. Now, that landscape has changed! One of the dwarfs grew up and broke the ceiling," she wrote.

According to the most recent Dell’Oro Group 1Q11 Ethernet Switch quarterly report, she writes, HP captured 12% of the total worldwide switching revenue market share, up 2.5% year to year, while Cisco lost 5.8% in the same period. The rest of Cisco’s loss in share is distributed among the other vendors in the market, each getting a tiny piece.

At its annual customer event, Cisco Live, Cisco responded with its own shot across HP's bow. It says in a head-to-head competition with the HP switch that is most comparable to the Catalyst 6500 switch, customers would have to pay three times the price for one-third the performance. The latest 40Gb-ready switch features the Supervisor Engine 2T (Sup-2T), a 2-Tbit card that unlocks 80 Gbits per second per slot, 10-Gbit and 10-Gbit Ethernet line cards, IPv4 and IPv6 support from the switch's hardware platform, network virtualization capabilities, L4 to L7 integrated services modules, and application performance and visibility monitoring through a revamped NetFlow. According to Cisco, the Sup-2T can increase the throughput capability of the Catalyst 6500 from 720 Gbps to 2 Tbps, and can quadruple the number of devices or users that can connect to a network, with a single switch able to support up to 10,000 mobile devices.

Among the more than 200 new features added to Cisco IOS are Advanced Security Services with the full Cisco TrustSec implementation, including hardware-based MacSec for wire-rate data confidentiality and integrity, Security Group Tagging for role assignment and persistence through the network, and Security Group Access Control Lists for role enforcement. Upgrading a 6500 switch to Sup-2T will cost $38,000, whereas HP customers would need to do a forklift upgrade costing more than $100,000 and delivering only 720 Gbps throughput. Cisco says, there are nearly 700,000 Catalyst 6500 switches installed, representing 110 million ports, more than 25,000 customers and $42 billion. (The switch was introduced in 1999.)

Commenting on the Catalyst update (as well as on Cisco CEO John Chambers' keynote, which followed the announcement), Andre Kindness, Forrester Research senior analyst, infrastructure and operations, says he found the company's "renewed" focus on its core business to be most significant. "I liked that they whittled down their priorities to five and put core back to No. 1, which shouldn't surprise anybody."

He notes that at one time, Cisco would talk about the more than 30 key initiatives it had under way, a number that has now been cut down to five: core (routing, switching and services); collaboration; data center virtualization and cloud; video; and architectures for business transformation. The other thing he said he likes is Cisco's focus on a vision and not knocking the competition.

See more on this topic by subscribing to Network Computing Pro Reports The Data Center Balancing Act (subscription required).

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