Force10 Networks has aimed a strike against Cisco's Catalyst 4500 in enterprises and mid-sized data networks, with a chassis switch that can scale up to 386 Gig Ethernet ports, 32 10Gig ports, or a combination of the two.

The C300 is a scaled down version of Force10's highly reliable and high performance Terascale E-series chassis, which can go to 1260 ports and has around 400 users world-wide. The company said it believes more and more organisations now need data centre-class networking in the wiring closet, and that's where the C300 is aimed.

The C300 runs the same modular FTOS operating system as its big brother and has many of the same features, such as redundant power supplies and the ability to hot-swap components without taking the network off-line. The Gig ports are all line-rate and all 386 can have full 15W Power-over-Ethernet.

Force10 cut costs by including a higher proportion of off-the-shelf parts and by leaving out Terascale features that were primarily there for service provider use, said Steve Garrison, Force10's marketing vice president.

Force10 is pitching the C300 directly against Cisco's popular Catalyst 4500. Garrison claimed that the C300 backplane has more than 10 times the switching capacity of the 4500, for instance, allowing customers to buy the capacity of a Cisco 6500 for the cost of a 4500.

He added that this reflects changes in network traffic patterns, which mean that not everything traverses the core now, so far more switching power is needed at the edge.

"We did a lot of work looking at the services people are rolling out," he said. "We are seeing wiring closets moving up in their requirements. Traffic is bypassing the data centre and becoming more horizontal - for example peer-to-peer and webconferencing - so people now need that reliability and scability across the network.

"It's also about power management - wiring closets weren't designed for IT gear. We allow people to measure the power to the port and set ports for power priority, for example for the wireless APs, the CEO, the mission critical servers."

He claimed that the C300 consumes 60 percent less power per Gigabit than does a 4500, not least because the Force10 box is denser, so you need fewer of them, and that is of itself more efficient.

Garrison said that the C300 would also compete with the likes of Foundry's SX1600. He added that Force10 has been building partnerships with other LAN vendors who compete with Cisco and need a switching partner - companies such as Aruba for Wi-Fi, Avaya and Mitel for VOIP, and StillSecure for security.

The eight-slot C300 chassis will list for $20,000 (£10,000), while line-cards are $8000 (£4000) for 48 non-PoE Gig ports, $9000 (£4500) for Gig PoE and $10,000 for four 10Gig ports. A fully-loaded chassis would therefore be around £120 per port for Gig PoE.