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Building a Top-Flight Infrastructure

Another notable gain this year is performance. All the vendors still say their products perform functions like IP forwarding and QoS (quality of service) classifications, and use ACLs (access-control lists) in ASICs. The performance of their 10 Gigabit products appeared greatly improved. In our previous RFP, most of the vendors could claim only 8 Gbps or less of bandwidth between each card and the backplane, which means they couldn't support full line-rate 10 Gigabit. This time around, Cisco supported 39 Gbps, Nortel 32 Gbps and Alcatel 32 Gbps, giving us three or four 10 Gigabit ports per card at line rate.

The vendors also are paying a lot more attention to security, offering more mature network authentication support through 802.1X, which requires that users log in before they are given access to the network beyond the local switch port. The products specified in our RFP also can provide filtering in more of their equipment using ASICs, which means that security doesn't have to come as a trade-off for performance.

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