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Cabletron throws switch on Cisco

Cabletron's new SmartSwitch 6000 chassis will compete directly with Cisco's leading Catalyst 5000 switching platform.

Cabletron Systems (CS) will set its sights on Cisco Systems when it ships a new high-end switch next week.

The company's new SmartSwitch 6000 chassis will directly compete with Cisco's leading Catalyst 5000 switching platform and stakes out yet another battleground in the LAN (local area network) switching wars, also populated by the likes of 3Com and Bay Networks.

As LANs grow to meet the demands of expanding companies, large switches are required for each department to handle increases in data traffic. These large departmental switching chassis usually include high-speed links to a "backbone" switch that handles traffic from departments throughout the building. This backbone switch feeds the information to other buildings on the network.

Cabletron officials said the new 6000 offers more Ethernet ports at less cost per port than the Catalyst 5000 while delivering increased functionality, promising aggregate switching performance of 2 million packets per second.

Analysts said Cabletron has to enter the market with rock-bottom prices to secure a place on the shelves of resellers, the source of most of the volume business in switching, according to Craig Johnson, principal analyst at Current Analysis, an Ashburn, Virginia-based market researcher. "It definitely helps the Cisco 5000 challenge," he said.

Cabletron is also looking to reduce the price of products that combine switching functionality and routing capability with its new SmartSwitch 2200. The new model offers 24 Ethernet, 2 Fast Ethernet, and several high-speed uplink options at about $200 per port.

The base 6000 chassis is priced at approximately $6,000, with Ethernet, ATM (asynchronous transfer mode), and FDDI (fiber distribution data interface) modules starting at $3,145. The 2200 is priced at $2,995.