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Cisco boosts bandwidth with 'virtualized' switches

The company rolls out two products aimed at helping businesses increase network capacity without overhauling existing infrastructure.

Cisco Systems has rolled out two new products designed to help enterprises increase their network capacity without overhauling their existing infrastructure.

The networking vendor's new line of switches--the Catalyst 6500 Series VSS (virtual switching system) 1440--is paired with a software engine that enables the "virtualization" of the switching hardware, by combining multiple switches to act as one node on the network.

According to Cisco, combining the switches multiplies the bandwidth on the network--which can reach 1.44Tbps (terabits per second)--because those that are virtualized are seen as a single node with one IP address. The management of multiple switches is also simplified.

"Traditional networks have duplicate switches and boxes for redundancy--when one active connection fails, the passive duplicate picks up the work," Richard Hsieh, director of product marketing for Cisco's gigabit systems business unit, explained during a briefing last week. "And this still takes between 30 to 40 minutes for the whole network to stabilize after a failure."

"But if you can combine the physical active and passive boxes, you can multiply the network's bandwidth without having to change much of the infrastructure. And failover is a matter of milliseconds," added Hsieh.

Cisco's second product is the Catalyst 4500 E-Series, targeted at small and midsize businesses. While it does not virtualize a network, it delivers 320Gbps and four times the bandwidth per slot.

The 4500 E-Series includes the controller hardware, Ethernet line cards, and four chassis.

According to Cisco, the two new products support bandwidth-intensive activities such as "telepresence" networking.

"People think about a network as a plumbing device, where it supports but is not essential to the business. But it is your business," Hsieh said. "For people to collaborate, it means that the network always has to be up, so even down time when you upgrade the network is a high price to pay."

Victoria Ho of ZDNet Asia reported from Singapore.