How I "bought" a Cisco 4900M 10GbE switch

Proper planning and implementation are vital to the success of any enterprise IT deployment, but these issues loom particularly large for a product such as Cisco's Catalyst 4900M switch, which is meant both to serve a foundational role in your network infrastructure and to change--through its swappable card slots--as your

Proper planning and implementation are vital to the success of any enterprise IT deployment, but these issues loom particularly large for a product such as Cisco's Catalyst 4900M switch, which is meant both to serve a foundational role in your network infrastructure and to change--through its swappable card slots--as your organization shifts from 1G to 10G Ethernet.

For implementation advice and detailed pricing breakdowns for the hardware that I tested in my Catalyst 4900M review, I worked with representatives from the San Francisco office of FusionStorm, a Cisco Gold Certified Partner with offices across North America. To be clear, Cisco provided the actual 4900M that I tested and also provided special engineering support to help ensure that product testing proceeded expeditiously.

As I learned while working with FusionStorm, some seventy percent of the hardware costs of the Cisco 4900M switch tied up in the half cards and transceivers that an organization will trade out during its transition to 10G. What's more, the support options for the various elements of my 4900M test unit also significantly impacted the unit's cost. The base chassis, half cards, and optical transceivers all come with separate support options for equipment replacement and field service. When all was said and done, the support contracts added 14 percent to the cost of our 4900M.

As the field replaceable 20-port 1G half cards become obsolete, it will prove invaluable to have a partner at hand who can help manage getting rid of the unused half cards. If done wrong, any cost savings associated with using the 4900M to support the speed transition could quickly disappear in a pile of unused hardware, so it's crucial to discuss these issues with your reseller or partner in order to ensure that they have a strong background in inventory management and in brokering retired Cisco gear.

After ensuring that your Cisco partner understands the importance of inventory management, the next step is to make sure they can provide the best architecture guidance, implementation services and the most aggressive price discounting to make sure the 4900M fits into your data center. FusionStorm said the ballpark discount for street pricing is upwards of 30 percent, depending on quantity and previous purchase history for hardware, and there is a 5 to10 percent discount on services and support.

Like all Cisco Gold Certified Partners, FusionStorm has to meet rigorous standards for networking competency, service and support, and customer satisfaction. FusionStorm's staff is credentialed with a range of Cisco certifications including CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) to Wireless and VoIP (voice over IP) CQP. The firm also provides specialists in network assessment and design and deployment, along with network security and data center planning.

For instance, as with any significant network equipment purchase, I had to make choices about the software and services that would come with the product. The 4900M comes with IP BASE IOS (Internetwork Operating System) and also supports Enterprise IOS for enhanced routing features. I worked with FusionStorm to determine that since my test case for the 4900M involved a top-of-rack scenario in which upstream equipment would handle advanced routing chores, I could avoid additional software costs by sticking with the IP BASE IOS.