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Cisco expands switch line for convergence

Enterprises looking to bring voice and data services on to a single network may find some useful features in Cisco Systems' latest wiring-closet switches, the Catalyst 4500 line.

Consisting of three new chassis for the Catalyst 4000 series, the 4500 line can power IP (Internet Protocol) desktop phones via an Ethernet wire and accommodate a daughtercard coming next year that will account for clients' use of resources. One model in the new lineup, the Catalyst 4507R, also can be fitted with a redundant supervisor module to keep the switch running in case the first supervisor fails.

The advent of IP telephony, which carries voice signals as data packets, holds the potential to simplify a company's infrastructure down to one network and remove the cost of buying and maintaining telephone switches. However, companies have been slow to adopt converged networks, partly for economic reasons.

With this introduction, Cisco is trying to address technical requirements for companies that are taking the plunge: Making employees rely on a packet-based network whenever they need to make a call means the infrastructure has to be able to both stay on and also not let voice calls get broken up with data packets.

The 4500s are designed to provide Ethernet connectivity in departments of any size organisation, or as the central switch for medium-sized branch offices. It can be outfitted with multiple T-1, or 1.5Mbps wide-area network links.

A supervisor module introduced along with the 4500 series, called the Catalyst 4000 Series Supervisor Module IV, can be fitted with a daughtercard that performs Cisco's NetFlow services. These capabilities include keeping accounts of what services each user takes advantage of at what time. The NetFlow card for Supervisor Module IV is expected to ship in the early part of next year.

The Supervisor IV will replace the Supervisor III, which introduced quality of service features that let the 4000 series switches prioritise traffic by user and application, as well as control which applications a user could use across the network. Those features remain in the Supervisor IV.

The redundancy feature in the Supervisor IV can be used in the Catalyst 4507R to put in two of the modules and have one take over if the other fails. Supervisor modules can be swapped in and out without restarting the switch.

The Catalyst 4503, which can be fitted with as many as 96 10/100/1000Mbps copper Ethernet interfaces, costs $995 (£648). The Catalyst 4506, which can accommodate 240 10/100/1000Mbps ports, costs $4,995 (£3,254). The Catalyst 4507R, which can have 240 ports and two supervisor modules, costs $9,995 (£6,512).

The switches can also be fitted with 10/100Mbps Ethernet modules and some fibre-based Ethernet interfaces. A standard power supply costs $995 and one with inline power capability costs $1,995 (£1,230). The Supervisor IV module costs $13,495 (£8,792). All the products are available immediately.

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