Enterprise IT Watch Blog

Jul 13 2011   5:03PM GMT

Cisco Catalyst 6500: Comfort food for uncomfortable times

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

IT departments are, for many intents and purposes, a fairly conservative group. Yes, they love their gadgets, pushing hardware to the limit and playing around on the bleeding edge – but not when it comes to anything that actually matters for their job. And for good reason: I’ve seen too many user-generated train wrecks in almost every facet of IT when eager young guns or generally savvy amateurs try to do it themselves.

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So the big news of Cisco’s upgraded Catalyst 6500 should not have been that big a surprise, but it sure felt like a letdown. Last year, we got Cisco announcing they were blazing tracks into a brand new area for them – the tablet! – and this year, all we get it a refresh to a 12-year-old product. So can the humble tech press, myself included, be forgiven for highlighting “new” features like “IPv4 and IPv6 support” support, even those Catalyst 6500 has supported that for years? I hope so, because it’s an important and impressive product with an interesting strategy (“most” of the new features and capabilities being offered do not even require a full upgrade). And more importantly, it highlights Cisco’s new-found strategy: Retreat to move forward.

Cisco’s realized that, as great as its Nexus line is, many of its core customers, the ones coming year in and year out to Cisco Live for example, still preferred the old, familiar, conservative way of doing things. Why throw out Cisco IOS for something new and different when you can have an upgraded version of the old?

Which is exactly what Cisco’s delivered, coupled with a promise of much more bang for your buck than HP (claims the latter disputes). Or, as my colleague Rivka Little so perfectly put it, “Cisco served up comfort food for the networking masses on the first day of Cisco Live 2011, sidestepping edgy cloud announcements and focusing instead on a major Catalyst 6500 upgrade.”

It should also be comfort food for Cisco’s shareholders. Has Jim Duffy notes, the leaner, meaner Nexus series has slashed profit margins for Cisco on a per-port basis, just as its starting to lose marketshare to budget competitors. Promising a more reliable, overall cheaper experience might be one way to staunch the bleeding even as it remains free to break new ground with Nexus.

Now that that’s out of the way, I highly recommend reading Rivka’s piece, which dives into the deep details of what makes the Catalyst 6500 tick, including the excellent service modules Cisco’s rolling out that will bake in firewall (yawn) and incredibly granular quality-of-service that segregates not just voice but also priority of voice calls, for example (now we’re talking.

Check back soon for the one glaring exception to Cisco’s new found conservatism, or chime in the comments on what you think it is or, more importantly, what you think of the Catalyst 6500 refresh.

Michael Morisy is the editorial director for ITKnowledgeExchange. He can be followed on Twitter or you can reach him at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Check out our complete Cisco Live! Coverage guidefor more breaking news.

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