November 25, 1996 10 AM ET

Cisco to triple switch capacity of Catalyst 5000
By Paula Musich

  Cisco Systems Inc. is combining technology from two of its high-end switches to create a data-center model that triples the aggregate frame-switching capacity of its top-of-the-line Catalyst 5000.

The Catalyst 5500 combines technology from Cisco's Catalyst 5000 LAN switch and LightStream 1010 ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) switch with leading-edge connectivity options, sources close to the company said.

Due next spring, the new device will provide Catalyst 5000 switch users with a growth path--and it gives Cisco a more viable competitor to Cabletron Systems Inc.'s high-end MMAC+.

The Catalyst 5500 will provide 13 slots, compared with the five-slot Catalyst 5000. Along with support for Catalyst 5000 and LightStream modules, the Catalyst 5500 will add Gigabit Ethernet and Token-Ring switching modules and a single-slot Route Switch Processor-based routing engine, code-named Yosemite, sources said. The RSP module brings Cisco 7500 router capabilities to the 5500.

The larger chassis and greater aggregate capacity will bring network relief, said Catalyst 5000 user Hank Hensel, network manager at Publishers Printing Co. Inc., in Shephardsville, Ky.

Advanced software support for the new Cisco switch will include network-layer virtual LAN capabilities, as well as support for the ATM Forum's emerging MPOA (Multiprotocol Over ATM) standard, which provides a method to route multiple protocols in an ATM-switched environment.

"MPOA is a feature we've been waiting for," said Hensel, who uses both Catalyst 5000s and LightStream 1010s in his network.

The MPOA support (a first for Cisco products), combined with LightStream 1010 integration, will advance the state of routed LAN-to-ATM interconnection, said David Passmore, president of Decisys Inc., a network consulting firm in Stirling, Va.

"MPOA adds missing functionality where the Catalyst 5000 only supported [LAN Emulation]. If you combine this with a backbone of 1010 switches, you now can eliminate the need for the one-armed router," said Passmore. "Now, you have to have a router hanging off the ATM switch if you want to connect to someone on a different subnet."

Other software features include support for the Cisco Group Management Protocol, which provides broadcast suppression and Layer 2 multicast registration. It also will support dynamic media access control address security filtering.

The Catalyst 5500 will triple the frame switching capacity by incorporating three Catalyst 5000 buses. A separate LightStream 1010 switching fabric will be incorporated to accept 1010 modules and add ATM switching capacity. In the switch, slots will be reserved either for LightStream ATM or Catalyst frame modules, sources said.

Integration of the two sides, however, may not happen until the end of next year, according to one source. A supervisor module that will tie all the switching fabrics together will not be ready until then. "If you want to get to ATM before then, you have to externally tie it to the 1010 cards in the lower slot," the source said.

Pricing for the 5500 was not available. The 5000 starts at about $22,000. Cisco officials declined to comment.

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