Cisco 'Outs' Switches From The Closet

Cisco says that freeing data switches from the confines of the enterprise data center/wiring closet is a billion-dollar opportunity. Targeted at a host of new endpoints in customer checkouts, kiosks, warehouses, conference rooms, classrooms, hotel rooms, cruise ship cabins, gaming floors, labs, doctors' offices and call centers, Cisco C-Series Switches are described as the first switches to provide enterprise-class features, including security, Power over Ethernet+ (PoE+) pass-through capability

January 10, 2011

4 Min Read
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Cisco says that freeing data switches from the confines of the enterprise data center/wiring closet is a billion-dollar opportunity. Targeted at a host of new endpoints in customer checkouts, kiosks, warehouses, conference rooms, classrooms, hotel rooms, cruise ship cabins, gaming floors, labs, doctors' offices and call centers, Cisco C-Series Switches are described as the first switches to provide enterprise-class features, including security, Power over Ethernet+ (PoE+) pass-through capability, PCI compliance and zero-touch setup.

The switches, compact versions of the Catalyst 3560/3750-X Series and 2960-S Series (with the same functionality, OS and management capabilities), can be deployed up to 100 meters away from the wiring closet. They eliminate the need for power outlets, and substantially reduce cabling complexities and overall infrastructure requirements, according to Cisco.

There are five models in the new family: 2960-C PD/PSE with eight 10/100 ports, two with PoE and two GE PoE+ input ports; 2960-C PD with eight 10/100 ports and two GE PoE+ input ports; 2960-C GE with eight 10/100/1000 ports and two GE uplink ports; 3560-C GE PoE with eight 10/100/1000 ports, two w/PoE+ and two GE uplink ports; and 3560-C GE with eight 10/100/1000 ports and two GE uplink ports.

In addition to the form factor and fan-less aspects, Cisco's new switches deliver three important features: security, flexibility and simplicity, says analyst Andre Kindness of Forrester Research.

"Cisco is continuing to roll out their trustsec and Macsec solution, which is a clear differentiation in the industry and offers clients the same type of security that they have on the Wi-Fi side. By having the switches being powered by PoE or from a plug in the wall, they clearly understand that their customers' hands might be tied by electrical codes and provide customers options to work around those constraints."As for simplicity, Kindness says, Cisco has always been dogged by complexity. "It is good to see them start to address the issue when it comes to switch deployment and management. By offering features like Smartport and Smart Operations, they are taking out a lot of manual and needless work. Networking companies need to spend more time developing plug-and-play products."

Overall, he sees this as a good move and long overdue. "The retail and education markets have always had a need a for smaller, more efficient and quieter switches, which has been traditionally filled by D-Link, HP [ProCurve networking line] and 3Com [before HP's acquisition]."

The new switches also address other trends Forrester is starting to see beyond retail and education. "Enterprise clients are moving to a more distributed workforce, with smaller campuses and more branch/remote locations," said Kindness This means that there will be a shift in edge switches from large 24- and 48-port ones to compact and fan-less ones, he says. "Much like the pop stalls at malls, businesses are setting themselves up in more locations but with smaller footprints to connect with more customers. For example, banks have carved out locations within grocery stores instead of leasing large buildings on the corner of major streets."

Kindness adds that medium and smaller business have become more comfortable with technology and are connecting everything in those office to IP, thanks to companies like Geek Squad, to plug-and-play solutions and to the iPhone.

IDC's Rohit Mehra, director, enterprise communications infrastructure research, thinks that the new switches are a different or novel approach to extending the local area network (LAN) edge, but are primarily for midsize and large enterprises. "It's brand new, no one's really done this with this kind of approach." He says that this is Layer 2, flat Layer 3 technology that provides more visibility at the edge of the network and is a fully managed solution.According to IDC, the enterprise Layer 2/3 managed switching market is worth $20 billion, and the fixed managed switch segment (100Mb and 1Gb) will be $9.9 billion in 2011, which makes Cisco's estimate of a billion-dollar opportunity reasonable, says Mehra.

Over and beyond the new switches and market opportunity, Cisco is providing a good proof point of its execution around the borderless network architecture that the company has been talking about for a year, he adds. Addressing the key pillars of energy, security and management, the new switches demonstrate what Cisco has been promising, and customers can begin to see the borderless network in action. "That was good to see. We as analysts get it ... but it might be a while before customers get it," so anything that delivers on the promises is good, he says.

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