Cisco Switching Gears

Upgrades, cost cuts key to its strategy.

Cisco Systems Inc.s strategy for switching—which makes up 41 percent of the companys revenues—includes a number of planned upgrades as well as efforts to streamline product development and reduce costs, according to company officials here.

Most new developments focus on the high-end Catalyst 6500 chassis switch, although many innovations trickle down to other switching platforms from there, according to Charlie Giancarlo, senior vice president and general manager of product development at Cisco.

Cisco is focusing its innovation efforts on continued manageability improvements for this year and beyond—especially on centralized management functions that can be "pushed out" to remote sites, according to Andy Bechtolsheim, vice president and general manager of Ciscos Gigabit switching business unit.

Most often with security functions, "there is a shortage of experts," Bechtolsheim said. But Cisco, through its experience running a large global network, can "advise customers on how best to organize the security functions," he said.

Bechtolsheim acknowledged that Cisco is working on more global authentication systems that can better safeguard company secrets from internal threats. For such protection, a multilayer system is required to ensure the right people get access to appropriate information.

On Tap at Cisco

  • Manageability enhancements for the Catalyst 6500 chassis
  • Sacramento chip to contain 180 million transistors
  • Catalyst 720 Supervisor module for the Catalyst 6500 to support 40G-bps throughput
In tackling configuration management, which will become more complex as Cisco adds more switch functions, Bechtolsheim said Ciscos goal is to automate setup, configuration and maintenance "as much as we can. We want to give a single person a view of the whole thing."

In switch architecture, Luca Cafiero, senior vice president and general manager of switching, voice and storage, outlined Cisco investments in high performance. Cafiero said that a new chip, code-named Sacramento, will contain 180 million transistors on a single chip—four times as many as that of the Pentium 4 chip at the same size. That is among 29 other application-specific integrated circuits in development at Cisco today, Cafiero said.

Ciscos new Catalyst 720 Supervisor module delivers for the Catalyst 6500 chassis the ability to support 40G-bps throughput per slot today. Cafiero said he expects to be able to double that to 80G bps. The time frame for release of such capability is dependent on customer demand, he added.

Cafiero, as an aside, said he does not expect to see Ethernet data rates increase by another factor of 10—breaking into 100G bps, but he does expect to see 40G bps in the next two years.