Cisco has a pair of new switches, an eight-port, 10G Ethernet core switch module and a Gigabit Ethernet blade server switch, both targeted at high-traffic data centres.

The Ethernet module works with the Catalyst 6500 core switch and the Catalyst Blade Switch 3040 with Fujitsu Siemens' Primergy server equipment. They provide greater bandwidth for data centres by allowing core switches to link to other devices via 10G, and opening up the flow of network traffic to server blades running inside a chassis. Cisco has also produced an online collaboration program where users can share scripts written for automating switch and router management.

The new Catalyst 6500 module is Cisco's first eight-port 10G Ethernet blade. It is nothing new to the industry, as Foundry Networks, Extreme Networks and Force10 Networks have shipped 10G modules with eight or more ports for some time, used to allow more servers or other devices to be attached to the network even when the total aggregate bandwidth for all ports exceeds the total switching capacity.

The module includes a DFC-3C forwarding engine card, which boosts switching speed of the device by 60 percent over Cisco's previous four-port 10G blade. It can switch as much as 64Gbit/s of traffic among different ports on the blade (40Gbit/s of bandwidth is available between the Catalyst 6500's slot and the backplane of the switch).

Other improvements include beefed-up packet buffers inside the hardware and the design ASIC-to-port ratio of the module. Cisco's four-port blade had 16MB of packet buffering memory; the new module has 256MB. This keeps the 10G ports from being overwhelmed by traffic bursts, so that packets are not dropped, said Marie Hattar, senior director for routing and switching at Cisco.

Cisco also has built more switching ASICs into the blade, with a chip for every corresponding port, which the company says improves performance. Cisco's previous multi-port 10G blades shared switching ASICs among ports, as do products from competitors. "You could potentially flood that ASIC if you oversubscribe that way," Hattar says. "What we've done is oversubscribe on the fabric level," where the number of ports exceeds the switching capacity of the module, while each port gets its own traffic-processing chip.

The Catalyst Blade Switch 3040 fits into the Primergy Blade Server Series product, and connects the backplane of the chassis to an outside network connection, with as many as six Gigabit Ethernet ports. The new switch joins existing Catalyst Blade Switch 3000 switches that fit in IBM's e-server BladeCenter, HP's p-Class BladeSystem and Dell's blade server chassis.

Cisco Beyond also is being launched as an online community for users of Cisco data centre products, to share scripts written to automate network management tasks, configurations and other settings on Cisco routers and switches running the Embedded Event Manager (EEE) module in IOS.

The eight-port 10G modules for the Catalyst 6500 are available for $37,000, without optics. Fibre-optic connections for each port cost $2,000 for SR fiber and $3,000 for LX4 fiber. The Catalyst Blade Switch 3040 costs $4,300 and will be available in October.