Cisco this week is rolling out two lines of Catalyst Ethernet switches in compact form factors intended for deployment in workgroups closer to users vs. wiring closets.

The Catalyst 3560-C and 2960-C Compact Series (C-Series) switches are designed to extend connectivity to IT deployments outside of the wiring closet, customer checkouts, kiosks, warehouses, conference rooms, classrooms, hotel rooms, cruise ship cabins, gaming floors and other space- and wiring-constrained networking environments.

Cisco says this market is about $1 billion (£650 million) and is being underserved by low-end, commodity switches. The C-series are "enterprise-class," and carry all the features of the higher-end Catalyst 3560 and 2960 switches, but in a compact form factor, says Rob Soderbery, senior vice president and general manager, Ethernet Switching Technology Group at Cisco.

So the C-series will compete with both low-end commodity switches and enterprise-class compact switches from Cisco's traditional competitors in the enterprise and SMB switch market: HP, Adtran, Netgear, D-Link, etc.

Powerful

The switches are comprised of five models.  They sport eight to 12 Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet ports, and two Gigabit Ethernet uplinks. They also include hardware acceleration for IPv6, IP multicast and access control lists.

The switches feature what Cisco calls Power over Ethernet (PoE) pass-through, a capability that allows the products to draw 30 watts/port of power from PoE switches deeper in the network, like in the wiring closets, and not require dedicated power outlets or power supplies. The switches are also designed to reduce cabling costs by eliminating the need for individual cable drops from the wiring closet to far-flung network endpoints.

The switches can be deployed up to 100 metres away from the wiring closet, Cisco says. They are fanless, and can be placed on or mounted underneath desktops and countertops or on a wall.

Secure switching

For security, the switches support Cisco's TrustSec technology, which determines, through policies, the role of users and devices in the network before granting access to resources. The C-Series switches are also PCI compliant, Cisco says, for regulatory compliance of payment transactions.

The switches encrypt all packets between the switch and the end device, and malicious users can be blocked from eavesdropping on the conversation between two endpoints, Cisco says. The switches also come with an optional security lock and cable guard to prevent theft of the switch and unauthorised access to the cables.

The C-Series switches also feature tools for simplified configuration and management, and QoS implementation for IP telephony and video. The switches can be remotely managed along with the switches in the wiring closet, Cisco says.

They also support Cisco's EnergyWise software for monitoring and managing energy consumption of the devices connected to the switch. EnergyWise turns off or powers down devices when they are not needed.