Enterasys Networks has refreshed its line of B3 and C3 stackable switches to improve its Power over Ethernet and 10GbE options as well as its policy management software. The new lines of switches, dubbed B5 and C5, now support IEEE 802.3at compliant high-power PoE, providing up to 30 watts per port. This is particularly useful for supporting devices such as Pan/Tilt/Zoom IP surveillance cameras, IP videophones, third-party 802.11n access points and virtual desktops.
The B5 and C5 family of switches are not backwards stack with the existing B3 and C3 family of switches. "We didn't want to interstack, because if you stack switches from previous generations, which we have done in the past, you have to limit switches to a common denominator, " says Karl Pieper, product manager. The new generation switch also offers improved policy capability because the next generation of ASICs allowed Enterasys to define up to eight policy users on a single port, where the B3 and C3 family supported three policy users.
Policy management is particularly important to users such as universities, Pieper says. "If you want to pick an environment where you really don't have control over the devices that attach to you, it's a university," he says. Enterasys switches have policy designed in, compared to competitors who layer policy on top, which means users can maintain networks with fewer administrators. For example, if a user authenticates to a particular role, that user gets permissions, but if the user doesn't authenticate, they can get put into a "guest" policy with much stronger limits. In addition, once defined, policies are pushed to all the Enterasys switches on the network. Policies can also be associated with devices such as IP phones, meaning security and traffic priority settings move with it if the phone is moved.
"These are good upgrades to what has been a long and pretty good product line from Enterasys," says Steven Schuchart, principal analyst for Current Analysis. "It's not a game changer, but it's a good upgrade." In particular, he likes the improved policy management. "By expanding that, it gives them better granular control for more people, and the ability to assign more policy." It's better for small- and medium-sized businesses, as well as for large "carpeted enterprises," meaning it runs in an office environment rather than requiring a data center, he says.
The C5 family has nine switches: 24 and 48 port versions with 4Gb or two 10Gb uplinks, with or without PoE, as well as a 24-port version with two 10GB uplinks and SFP. The B5 family offers the same models but without the SFP version. The switches will be available in the second quarter for prices ranging from $2,750 for the smallest B5 to $12,000 for the biggest C5.