Cisco Unveils Compact Ethernet Catalyst Switches

Cisco's new Catalyst 3560-C and 2960-C switches are designed to make it easier for enterprises and SMBs to take their switches out of the wiring closet.

Cisco Systems is rolling out new members to its Catalyst Ethernet switch family designed for situations where space, wiring or power is a concern.

The Catalyst 3560-C and 2960-C Compact Series are intended to bring high-performance networking capabilities out of the wiring closet and closer to where users needs them, including such areas as retail environments for point of sale or kiosks, education settings including the classroom or dormitories, health care in doctor offices or the front counter, and the hospitality and gaming industry, such as cruise ships and slot machine floors.

"More and more of IT infrastructure is becoming client-facing," Robert Soderbery, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Ethernet Switching Technology Group, said in an interview. "The classic closet-wired switch isn't applicable to these applications."

Cisco made the announcement Jan. 10 at the National Retail Federation's Annual Convention and Expo in New York City.

Soderbery estimated that this area will be about a $1 billion market, and it currently is not being served by low-end commodity switches from Cisco rivals such as Hewlett-Packard, Adtran and NetGear. The Catalyst 3560-C and Catalyst 2960-C switches are the latest additions to Cisco's Borderless Network initiative, an effort kicked off in October 2009 to create network infrastructure that enables business users and consumers to access the networks from anywhere with any device at any time.

The new switches, which will be available in March, address a host of challenges facing businesses, not only enterprises but also SMBs, Soderbery said. Those challenges include everything from power delivery and management to visible endpoints, deployment issues, and wiring constraints and costs. SMBs and others in the past have had to compromise on performance, power consumption or management if they wanted to bring in lower-end switches for such tasks, he said.

"The competition is typically offering only [low-power] switching devices without the services and capabilities the applications demand," he said.

Regarding cabling, the switches cut out the need for individual cable drops for network endpoints and reduce the complexities associated with running cables to locations away from the wiring closet. The C-Series switches can be deployed up to 100 meters away from the wiring closet. In addition, they have no fans and run quietly, enabling them to be put in such places as under desktops and countertops or on walls. The switches are about half the size of an Xbox game console from Microsoft, according to Cisco officials.

They also offer Pass-through PoE (Power over Ethernet), enabling the switches to draw power from an upstream switch or a router in the wiring closet. This allows the switch to not only power itself but also to move power downstream to IP devices connected to it.

Regarding security, the switches support Cisco's TrustSec networking security solution, protecting them from theft, unauthorized users or other security threats. TrustSec encrypts all data moving between the switch and end device, and offers strong security policies based on user IDs, organizational roles and device types. The switches also comply with PCI DSS security standards for safer payment transactions.

In addition, the switches support Cisco's EnergyWise technology, which lets users monitor, manage and, if needed, lessen the amount of energy consumed by the devices connected to the switches. Through EnergyWise, devices can be powered down or turned off when they're not in use.

Regarding deployment and management, the C-Series switches feature Cisco's Catalyst Smart Operations technology for simple setup and fast troubleshooting, and Auto Smartports, which automatically configure the switch based on the devices that are connected to it.