Dubbed Catalyst 4000 Supervisor Engine III, the new product is a self-contained hardware module that can be plugged into the company's existing line of Layer 2 gigabit Ethernet switches. By doing so, customers can upgrade any of their high-density 10/100 Catalyst 4000 switches to handle Layer 3 routing functions.
"This announcement is a big deal for the Cisco installed base that wants to [upgrade] or is considering upgrading their capabilities," said David Passmore, research director of Utah-based analyst company The Burton Group. "Layer 3 services like quality of service (QoS) are starting to become more important for enterprises, especially those considering putting in Ethernet-based phones on the LAN."
By virtue of upgrading the Catalyst 4000 switches, first introduced in January 1999, the new switching engine allows large enterprises and Metro Ethernet providers to offer services such as QoS, security, and multi-layer switching. Ultimately, the enhancement allows an enterprise to offer converged voice, data, and video services such as VoIP from the desktop.
Cisco's idea is that by placing a control module in the wiring closet, network administrators can have more and finer control of their traffic from the edge, rather than from the core. Supervisor III allows customers to differentiate LAN traffic types and prioritise based on their own requirements.
"Resource-hungry applications can now be controlled, which is very important in a converged environment," said Les Poltrack, director of marketing for the gigabit switching business unit at Cisco. "This is done by performing both inbound and outbound policing of traffic."