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Force10 barks at Cisco's Cat 4500

New midrange chassis offers Cat 6500 performance at Cat 4500 price

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Force10 Networks has introduced a midrange chassis switch, called the C300, which it is pitching against Cisco's popular Catalyst 4500.

The C300 is in effect a cut-down version of Force10's high-end Terascale E-series, but with many of the same high reliability features, such as the same modular FTOS operating system and the ability to hot-swap components without taking the network off-line.

Steve Garrison, Force10's marketing veep, said that compared with the E-series, the C300's designers shaved off cost by cutting back features aimed at service providers, such as the switch's memory and its look-up engine, and by using more off-the-shelf parts. The latter was possible because Force10 recently ported FTOS to run on more than just its own ASICs, he added.

The first member of a new C-series family, the C300 has eight slots and can take both 48-port Gigabit linecards and four-port 10Gig cards. The chassis has over 1.5Tbit/s of switching capacity, so it can support 386 Gigabit ports at line rate - Garrison claimed that this means it offers Catalyst 6500 performance at the price of a Catalyst 4500.

He added that unlike the 4500, it can provide full 15.4W Power-over-Ethernet on every port and it includes power management, so you can set power levels and priorities port by port.

"We use 60 per cent less power than Cisco per Gigabit," he claimed. "We're also higher density so you need fewer boxes, which makes us more power efficient."

Garrison said that as well as targeting mid-sized data centres, Force10 expects to sell the C300 to large enterprises as an edge switch, as their networks flatten out and become less core-centric.

"We are seeing wiring closets moving up in their requirements," he said. "Traffic is bypassing the data centre and becoming more horizontal now, with applications such as peer-to-peer and web-conferencing."

The C300 lists at $20,000 (£10,000) for the chassis, 48-port Gigabit cards are $9000 (£4500) for PoE or $8000 (£4000) for non-powered, and four-port 10Gig cards are $10,000 (£5000). That means a fully-loaded box is around £120 per Gigabit port or £1500 per 10Gig port. ®

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