Cisco has announced modular and stackable switch gear aimed at bringing features such as advanced quality-of-service controls, voice over IP and security to small and midsize businesses.

Two switching blades - the Supervisor II-Plus engine and Access Gateway Module - could allow users to add Layer 3 and 4 switching services, as well as WAN and VoIP support, to a basic Catalyst 4500 chassis. Also on tap is a lower-cost 48-port 10/100/1000M bit/sec Ethernet blade for the Catalyst 4500, as well as Catalyst 2970 and 2940 stackable switches for smaller networks.

The Supervisory II-Plus module improves on the previous entry-level Supervisor II blade with more bandwidth - a 64G bit/sec switch fabric instead of the previous 24G bit/sec. The new module also supports IOS software, whereas the Supervisory II supported Catalyst OS, a Layer 2 operating system. IOS gives the switch features such as Layers 2, 3 and 4 QoS and security, and support for 802.1p, DiffServ and Access Control Lists based on IP address or application port.

Cisco has shrunken its VoIP access gateway router for branch offices into the Access Gateway Module for the Catalyst 4500. The module fits into a single Catalyst 4500 slot and provides T-1 WAN and PSTN interfaces along with support for Survivable Remote Site Telephony, which allows VoIP-enabled branch offices to keep dial tone and some call control features if disconnected from a centralized IP PBX. The Access Gateway Module also includes the PIX firewall and an optional daughter card for supporting up to 16 analog lines for fax machines and modems. The module will work with other IOS-based Catalyst 4500 engines.

The 48-port 10/100/1000Base-T blade for the Catalyst 4500 was introduced with a per-port cost of around $114, compared to the $208 per-port cost of Cisco’s previously available 48-port copper Gigabit blade.

As for the new fixed-configured offerings, the Catalyst 2970 is a 24-port 10/100/1000M bit/sec switch aimed at what Cisco product marketing manager Steven Shalita calls “high-performance workgroups,” such as designers, CAD engineers or medical imaging technicians who work with large files. The Catalyst 2940 is an eight-port 10/100M bit/sec switch with a fiber or copper Gigabit uplink port. The box is intended for deployments where a limited number of network ports are required. Cisco says the switch’s all-metal enclosure and fan-less cooling system are targeted for such areas as classrooms or conference rooms.

Cisco is also releasing a scaled-down version of its CiscoWorks software that could be used to manage smaller networks. The software will be free.